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Earth storm forces two Iditarod mushers to seek rescue

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Iditarod Two Rescues (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Two mushers from the back of the pack had to be rescued in separate incidents from the Iditarod Trail sled dog race on Friday after winds from a strong land storm caused conditions to deteriorate, race officials said. .

One of those rescued was a musher who had a dangerous encounter with a moose before the race started.

Both rescues occurred Friday morning as the mushers were making the final push to reach the finish line in Nome.

Gerhardt Thiart, who was approaching the checkpoint at Safety, 22 miles (35 kilometers) from Nome, activated his distress beacon due to the storm.

Edward Stang from a nearby town was in the area on his snowmobile and found Thiart and his team of dogs. Thiart had suffered a leg injury.

Stang, who did not know Thiart, had activated an emergency beacon and transported him to the nearby community of White Mountain. There, a helicopter picked up Thiart and took him to Nome, where he was being evaluated Friday night, an Iditarod statement said.

Around the same time, another musher, Bridgett Watkins, called a relative in Nome for help. A search and rescue team was dispatched from White Mountain, but in the meantime, Watkin’s husband, Scotty, tracked her down. He and four other people on snowmobiles set out from Nome to help sled drivers through the storm.

Watkins was taken to White Mountain, where she was evaluated at a local clinic. She was then flown to Nome and she was with her family.

In February, Watkins was on a training run near Fairbanks when a bull moose started trampling his dogs and didn’t stop even after he emptied his gun on the moose. He was able to call for help, and a friend showed up and killed the moose with a high-powered rifle after the moose seriously injured four of his dogs.

The White Mountain Search and Rescue team along with an Iditarod snowmobile team monitoring the rear of the race were taking the two dog teams to Nome, where they will be evaluated by race vets on Friday. Iditarod officials said.

Both mushers had to scratch from the race because of rescues.

The nearly 1,000-mile Iditarod began March 6 near Willow and took mushers through the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness. Brent Sass won the race on Tuesday.

Of the 49 mushers who started the race, eight have scratched.

Nine mushers remain on the trail, all massed at the checkpoint on White Mountain, 77 miles (124 kilometers) from Nome.

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