Veteran musher killed by runaway snowmobile

Posted: Monday, April 08, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Veteran musher and outdoorsman Fred Jordan of Tanana was killed after he was struck by a runaway, driverless snowmachine early Sunday morning.

Jordan, 53, was in Huslia to watch a niece and nephew race in the village's spring carnival sled dog race, according to his daughter, Robin Carlo.

Alaska State Troopers received a report at about 1 a.m. Sunday that a man had been killed, said spokesman Greg Wilkinson.

According to troopers who responded, Sterling Dewilde, 22, was working on a new snowmobile and attempting to start it. Dewilde wedged the throttle open and when the machine started, it took off without a driver and struck and killed Jordan.

No foul play is suspected and there is no evidence that alcohol was a factor.

''It looks like just a tragic accident,'' Wilkinson said.

An autopsy on Jordan's body will be performed by the state medical examiner.

Jordan was well-known along the Yukon River and was credited for mushing innovations such as wrist wraps for curing canine sprains and the use of smaller sprint dogs in long-distances races, now widespread practices among mushers.

Jordan was born in Tanana and lived there all his life. He kept a trapline in the winter and a fish wheel in the summer.

In 2000 he ran the Yukon Quest and was positioned to do well when he dropped out of the race due to his dogs' illness.

''I respect dogs too much to ruin them,'' he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''Why ruin a good dog? Money's not everything.''

Word of Jordan's death spread rapidly Sunday morning. Friends remembered him for his sense of humor, his willingness to help and the knowledge he gained growing up in Tanana.

''He was easily the best guy in the woods I've been with and I've been with some of the best,'' said Joe Runyan, who spent 15 years in Tanana and rose to the top of the dog-mushing world.

''I had some of the best adventures on the Yukon and in Alaska with Freddie Jordan. We had some close calls, too. We should've been dead a couple of times.''

Runyan won the Iditarod and Yukon Quest long-distance sled dog races and now lives in New Mexico. He credited Jordan, a winner of many mid-distance races, with teaching him about trapping, hunting and fishing and helping him get his start in dog mushing.

Runyan said Jordan's outdoors knowledge was encyclopedic. For advice on just about anything concerning the woods, trail conditions or animal and fish movements in the Fish Lake and Tanana areas, Jordan was one of the best sources of information.

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