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 tree stump and getting knocked unconscious, and later falling through ice and breaking his ankle.
Scott Janssen, 52, 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.
“I made it through the worst part of the trail only to slip on the ice and break my foot,” Janssen told The Associated Press on Wednesday as he recuperated from home.
Treacherous trail conditions with little snow have marked the early part of this year’s Iditarod, which started Sunday with 69 mushers. The nearly 1,000-mile race spans two mountain ranges, dangerous wilderness and the wind-whipped Bering Sea coast.
Janssen’s ordeal began Tuesday when he crashed his sled, hitting his head after he said he bumped across rocks all along the trail. He lay unconscious for at least an hour and awoke to find his sled nearby and his dogs huddled next to him.
“I tripped over there, went full-speed and hit my head on that stump,” he said he told the musher. “I think I went night-night for awhile.”
After caring for his dogs, Janssen fixed his sled and continued on.
He made it to Tin Creek and estimated he had only about 7 more miles of nasty trail until it turned good again.
But one of his dogs, Hooper, got loose from the line and took off.
Janssen said he loosely anchored his sled and tried to call Hooper as he crossed a frozen creek. But just as Hooper heeded the call and trotted back to his place in line, Janssen fell.
“I slipped on the ice, and bang, that was it,” Janssen said.
He lay there for about 45 minutes before another musher, St. Anne, Jamaica, native Newton Marshall, came along.
“I said, ‘Help! Help,’ and Newton comes walking up and said, ‘Yeah, mon. How you doing?’ ”
Marshall was able to retrieve a snowsuit and Janssen’s sleeping bag from his sled, helping the injured musher into both.
Film crews for the Iditarod Web site came on the trail and stayed with Janssen until an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter arrived to fly him to an Anchorage hospital.
Veteran musher Sonny Lindner was in the lead Wednesday.