Former Iron Dog Champion Seriously Injured in Crash
News-Miner file photo. Local rider Tyler Huntington, standing on his snowmachine, celebrates a victorious performance in the 2011 Iron Dog snowmachine race with his partner Chris Olds, of Eagle River, on Saturday evening, Feb. 26, 2011, on the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks. The Polaris team of Huntington and Olds also won the race in 2010.
FAIRBANKS — Two-time Iron Dog champion Tyler Huntington, of Fairbanks, was seriously injured in a crash on the Bering Sea coast Monday afternoon while training for next month’s 2,000-mile snowmachine race from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks.
Huntington, 27, was going between 80 and 90 mph when he hit a piece of driftwood on the edge of the trail about 3 miles north of the village of Shaktoolik about 3 p.m. He was thrown from his machine and suffered a broken pelvis and possible internal injuries in the crash, which occurred during a practice run with racing partner Evan Booth, of Nome.
Booth and villagers from Shaktoolik put Huntington onto a stretcher and loaded him in a dog sled. He was towed into the village by snowmachine and medevaced to Anchorage, where he was scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday afternoon.
Riding a Polaris Indy 600cc, Huntington was trailing Booth when he hit the log, which Booth estimated at 12 to 18 inches in diameter.
“I was coming off a lake going onto the beach, going about 80 or 90 mph,” Huntington said from his hospital bed in Anchorage before going into surgery. “It was pretty windy; I couldn’t see the ground very well.
“I hit a big, old log and went tumbling,” he said. “It happened so fast I didn’t even know what was going on.”
Booth said he noticed the driftwood when he went by, but it didn’t appear to pose a threat or he would have stopped and alerted Huntington, as he had done in two or three spots earlier the same day.
“It was just a typical pile of driftwood left behind from a tidal surge, a bunch of logs laid down any old way,” Booth said. “It was just one of those deals.”
Huntington landed in a scattered pile of driftwood logs, and doctors told him he may have hit another piece of driftwood when he landed. His pelvis was broken. Huntington knew immediately something was wrong.
“Oh my God,” he said. “I’ve never felt that kind of pain before.”
Booth, who was periodically looking over his shoulder to check on Huntington, turned around as soon as he realized Huntington wasn’t there.
“I went back and came across the accident site,” he said. “Tyler’s machine was upside down running and he was laying there making some noises.”
Booth, also a two-time Iron Dog champ who dislocated his hip in a crash during the 2001 race, could tell right away that Huntington wasn’t going to be able to move or ride. Booth had a satellite phone to call for help but thought it would be quicker to ride into Shaktoolik, given how close he was to the village.