ATV driver says he didn't see dog team before collision

Posted: Monday, January 20, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Alaska State Troopers have forwarded charges to juvenile authorities against a 16-year-old boy who struck a sled dog team with his all-terrain vehicle in North Pole Friday night and fled the scene.

''He said he didn't see them,'' Trooper Ronnie Simmons told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

One dog was killed in the incident, another two were injured and musher Jeff Holt suffered a broken hand. His sled was smashed in the incident, which happened at about 7 p.m.

On Saturday, the teen acknowledged colliding with the team after troopers found him with the help of tips from residents, Simmons said.

Charges against the teen, whose name is being withheld by troopers, are being forwarded to juvenile intake at the Fairbanks Youth Facility. It's still unclear what the charges will be.

The teen told troopers that he didn't ram the 10-dog team on purpose, as troopers had supposed based on tire tracks, and that he left the scene out of fear.

Holt, a 42-year-old math teacher at North Pole Middle School, was training the dogs for his daughter, 14-year-old Baillee, who plans to race in the Junior Yukon Quest.

The dog that was killed in the collision died instantly, Holt said, and of the two maimed dogs, one suffered a broken jaw and another a broken leg. The one with the broken leg won't be able to race again. Meanwhile, Holt's hand is in a cast.

The musher told troopers he waved his headlight at the approaching ATV driver and that he was sure the driver saw him.

Tracks in the snow showed that the ATV was driving on the right side of the trail and had crossed over at the point of impact.

After the collision, the 16-year-old stopped and asked the musher if he needed help. Holt yelled yes as he dove for his team, which was starting to bolt, he said.

By the time he anchored down the sled, the ATV driver was gone.

''I felt I was being abandoned. I was just out there by myself,'' Holt said.

He placed the dead dog in the sled basket and walked the team home.

Holt said his family has received probably 100 calls from well-wishers expressing sympathy. Some have offered to repair or replace the broken sled, and others have offered a sled to borrow.

The nine dogs that lived through the accident are ''a little rattled,'' Holt said. The one that died was a leader, as is the dog with the broken leg.

He calls the collision a ''stupid, freak accident.

''I hope he learns a lesson that there is a consequence to all of our actions,'' Holt said of the young ATV driver. ''He put my life in danger. It could have been my life that was taken.''

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