ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race musher was flown to a hospital after a harrowing ordeal that included crashing his sled, hitting his head on a stump and later falling through ice and breaking his ankle.
Scott Janssen, an Anchorage undertaker known as the Mushing Mortician, was back home early Wednesday after getting a cast for the broken bone he suffered on Tin Creek, about 40 miles from Nikolai.
According to Janssen’s Facebook site, the ordeal started Tuesday when he crashed his sled between the Rohn and Nikolai checkpoints, hitting his head. He lay unconscious for more than two hours and awoke to find his dogs huddled next to him.
After caring for his canines, Janssen fixed his sled and continued on the trail.
But one of his dogs, Hooper, then got loose from the line and took off.
Janssen anchored his sled and tried to catch the animal. But he fell through the ice shortly before Hooper returned to him.
Janssen’s boots then froze, and he slipped on the ice, breaking his ankle. He couldn’t get back to his sled and ended up sitting on the ice and water until the next musher came along 45 minutes later.
Newton Marshall, from St. Anne, Jamaica, stayed with Janssen until an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter arrived to take him to Anchorage.
Besides the broken ankle, Janssen suffered a slight concussion. All his dogs are in great shape, according to the website. They were to be returned to Anchorage later Wednesday.
The nearly 1,000-mile Iditarod started Sunday with 69 mushers. It spans two mountain ranges, dangerous wilderness and the wind-whipped Bering Sea coast.
Janssen is among about a dozen mushers who dropped out amid a grueling run through snowless, treacherous conditions in the first part of the race. Another participant was withdrawn by officials because of an injury.
Veteran musher Sonny Lindner was in the lead Wednesday and was first to leave the checkpoint at Ophir, 623 miles from the finish line in Nome on Alaska’s western coast. Lindner won the inaugural 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race in 1984.
Next to leave Ophir was veteran Aaron Burmeister, who is trying to become the first native of Nome to win the race.
Also scratching from the race was Jake Berkowitz, who finished eighth last year. Berkowitz left the race Tuesday after he damaged his sled beyond repair between the Rohn and Nikolai checkpoints.
Iditarod officials said in a release that they removed Canadian musher Karen Ramstead, of Perryvale, from the race because of an injury deemed too significant to allow her to safely continue.