Lawsuit filed in musher's fatal accident

Posted: Wednesday, March 06, 2002

FAIRBANKS -- The widow of Two Rivers musher Jerry Louden has filed a $100,000-plus lawsuit accusing a Wasilla musher with causing the truck accident that killed her husband last summer.

The suit alleges that Rudolph Demoski -- who has finished the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race four times -- was behind the wheel of a northbound pickup that forced Louden's flatbed truck off the Richardson Highway Aug. 3. Louden, a veteran of five Yukon Quests and one Iditarod, was a state worker.

Meanwhile, the Palmer District Attorney's Office is still considering whether to file criminal charges but declined to name a suspect. However, the office received the case from Alaska State Troopers, who named Demoski as the pickup driver in the accident report.

Demoski was driving in a ''negligent, reckless, wanton and willful manner,'' according to the lawsuit, which was filed Friday on behalf of Louden's estate in the name of his widow, Janice Louden.

''As a consequence of Louden's evasive action, a collision between Louden and the defendant's vehicle, which quite possibly could have proven fatal to the defendant, was avoided,'' reads the suit. ''Louden was subsequently killed in the resulting rollover of Louden's vehicle.''

Janice Louden referred questions to her attorney, Bill Satterberg. According to Satterberg, the reasoning behind the lawsuit had a great deal to do with bringing up the Loudens' teen-age daughter.

''Basically, the money's going to the kid,'' he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, noting that the Loudens' insurance company is presently declining to pay off on the crash.

Louden was working on a seasonal bridge crew for the Department of Transportation at the time of the crash. He was behind the wheel of a DOT flatbed truck heading south at about 158 Mile of the Richardson Highway when he swerved to avoid what witnesses said was a northbound white pickup truck.

Alaska State Trooper investigator Mike Burkmire said interviews with witnesses revealed that the pickup had apparently just passed a motor home on a right-hand curve in the two-lane highway and had almost returned to its own lane when it crested a hill and came upon Louden's flatbed coming in the opposite direction.

Louden swerved the flatbed, then went off the side of the road and rolled several times. He was ejected from the truck and died at the scene. The pickup did not stop.

Demoski could not be reached for comment Monday or Tuesday.

No court dates have been set for the lawsuit.

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