Lance Mackey won his second consecutive Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Wednesday morning – a race marred by the death of three dogs, injuries to several others, and the crash of a small plane carrying three Iditarod volunteers.
State police said the plane went down Tuesday about 16 miles outside of White Mountain, a checkpoint 77 miles from the Nome finish line. The cause of the crash was unknown.
On Tuesday, a third sled dog died, according to the Iditarod Trail Committee – a four-year-old named Cargo, on the team of veteran musher Ed Iten.
Earlier in the race, a snowmobiler hit and killed a dog on the team of Minnesota musher Jennifer Frekking, and a dog on the team of John Stetson died from symptoms of pneumonia.
Mackey, a 37-year-old throat cancer survivor, crossed the finish line of the 1100-mile race at 2:46 a.m. Wednesday, with 11 of his dogs.
"I don't know exactly how to explain it. I'm just blessed with an incredible dog team."
In its 36th running, the Iditarod commemorates a run by sled dogs in 1925 to deliver lifesaving diphtheria serum to Nome. For much of the race Mackey struggled with dogs stricken with diarrhea and slowed by unseasonably warm weather that marked much of the trail. Mackey's dogs also quarreled on the trail. He had to drop Hobo, who was badly injured in an "ongoing rivalry" with Larry. Some of his dogs were coughing and one was in heat, another Associated Press report said.
The modern-day Iditarod trail crosses frozen rivers, dense woods and two mountain ranges, then goes along the dangerous sea ice up the Bering Sea shore.
Mushers compete for a piece of an $875,000 purse, to be paid out among the top 30 finishers to reach Nome. Mackey gets $69,000 and a new truck worth $45,000 for winning.