Race officials announce dog death in Quest

Clam Gulch's Osmar stays neck-in-neck for lead; Soldotna's Stormo medevaced to Dawson

Posted: Tuesday, February 20, 2001

EAGLE (AP) -- As mushers in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race hit the trail after a 36-hour break, race officials announced the first dog death in the race.

Musher Dave Sawatzky of Healy pulled into the Eagle checkpoint at about 9 p.m. Sunday with a dead dog in his sled bag.

''We have some kind of sad news,'' Quest head veterinarian Margy Terhar told reporters. Terhar said Jack, a 3-year-old member of Sawatzky's team, died Sunday.

''There was no indication that it was driver error, negligence, anything like that,'' Terhar said. ''So we'll proceed as we usually do, which is to send the remains to a pathologist to see if we can, through an autopsy, get a definitive diagnosis and decide what happened.''

Terhar said the 13 dogs remaining in Sawatzky's team looked healthy and happy.

Sawatzky and Tim Osmar of Clam Gulch both left Eagle at 3:45 a.m. Monday, with William Kleedehn of Carcross trailing them by 5 minutes. Andrew Lesh of Fairbanks was in fourth place, leaving at 4 a.m.

By mid-morning Monday 13 mushers had reached the Eagle checkpoint and six had left Eagle, headed for Circle City.

Frank Turner, who won the Quest in 1995 and is the only musher to have raced every year since 1984, arrived in Eagle more than eight hours behind the leaders. He was in seventh place.

''I'm not racing with those guys now. They have too much speed,'' he told KTUU-TV.

The 170-mile run to Circle was expected to be rough, with huge slabs of jumble ice on the river most of the way. The leaders were expected to arrive in Circle Tuesday morning.

Twenty-six of the 31 mushers who began the race Feb. 11 remained on the trail. The latest to drop out was Sig Stormo, a rookie from Soldotna. Stormo had to be medevaced to Whitehorse from the Dawson checkpoint Sunday after he accidentally slugged down several gulps of stove fuel.

The fuel, methyl hydrate, had been stored in a used juice bottle. Mushers use the fuel to fire up the stoves used to boil water and heat dog food.

If not treated promptly, methyl hydrate poisoning can damage the optic nerve and cause blindness. It also burns the lining of the esophagus and stomach.

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