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Musher and truck collide near Willow leaving 1 sled dog dead, 3 injured

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 5:05 PM AKST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2022 at 6:25 PM AKST
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WILLOW, Alaska (KTUU) - A sled dog musher from New Hampshire registered to race in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race saw her dog team collide with a truck while mushing near Willow on Wednesday, which has left one sled dog dead and at least three others injured.

Jaye Foucher of Sibersong Sleddogs was mushing near the Matanuska-Susitna Borough community of Willow on Wednesday afternoon when she says a truck collided with her sled dog team. Troopers received a call shortly after 2 p.m. but neither Foucher had left with her dogs to receive veterinary attention by the time troopers arrived.

Foucher said the collision happened as her team left the unbroken trail alongside the Parks Highway and jumped onto the road.

“I started waving my arms at him to slow down and stop to avoid hitting the team, but they didn’t. I don’t know if they didn’t see me,” Foucher said. “I don’t know how they didn’t see the team, ... at least six of the dogs were smack in the road at that point and the guy didn’t even slow down. It’s like he never even saw me waving at him or saw the team and didn’t swerve, didn’t slow at all, just hit the dog team at 50 something miles and hour and I literally screamed.”

The driver did remain on the scene to help.

Foucher told Alaska’s News Source on Wednesday that she was not physically injured, but that one dog had died and one dog remains missing. Out of 11 dogs on the line when Foucher’s team was struck, eight were checked by veterinary staff and all but three have been cleared.

Iditarod veteran DeeDee Jonrowe was among those who arrived quickly to assist Foucher. Jonrowe took the sled dog who died while Foucher traveled with her other injured dogs to Tier 1 Veterinary Medical Center in Wasilla.

“I cannot thank the community enough for what they’ve been doing today to help,” Foucher said. “It’s amazing.”

Foucher said at this point, it looks like two to four of the dogs may not be able to race for the rest of the season. One of the dogs injured was her lead dog.

Foucher posted to a musher’s Facebook group that she needed assistance and said that other mushers driving dog trucks arrived to help within minutes.

“Everybody is kind of motivated to try and help her. This is a nightmare for a dog musher,” Jonrowe said Wednesday.

Foucher is currently registered for her first Iditarod, according to the race website. According to TV6 in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Foucher had temporarily relocated there to train her dogs in 2020. Foucher told Upper Michigan’s Source at the time that she breeds all of the dogs she races and that competing in the Iditarod was her ultimate goal.

Foucher had been training in Willow since August of 2021.

Foucher developed her interest in mushing after she became owner of a Siberian Husky in 2000, according to her website. After a career as a guitarist, Foucher then moved from Massachusetts to New Hampshire and is co-founder of New Hampshire’s only stage race, according to the website.

As of 2022, Foucher has a kennel of approximately 35 dogs and is one of 35 mushers registered to race in the Willow 300 Sled Dog Race in one week, according to her Facebook page.

“This was my Willow 300 team that just got hit, so I honestly don’t know if I even have a team for Willow 300 or Iditarod because they just knocked out,” Foucher said. “The dead dog was one of my main leaders ... two of the more injured dogs are two others of my main leaders, so I may not even have a front end left anymore. I can’t even wrap my head around that yet, I just have to get through the rest of today and then figure it out.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information and quotes.

Correction: This article has been corrected to reflect that Foucher did not direct her team to cross the road, but that the dogs left the trail and went onto the road themselves.

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