ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Iditarod musher injured by a sport utility vehicle that crashed into her team on a training run quickly turned her thoughts to the dogs that had scattered.
From a ditch where she lay with three broken vertebrae, Karin Hendrickson reached for her cellphone.
“I just started trying to get ahold of local mushers to say, ‘My dogs are loose and they’re hurt and someone needs to come and get them because I can’t,’ “ she said Thursday from her hospital bed at Providence Alaska Medical Center.
Hendrickson, 44, is a four-time finisher in the 1,000-mile Iditarod.
Besides the broken back, she suffered badly bruised legs.
Her dogs fared better. Local mushers and volunteers found all 14 of her dogs without serious injuries.
Hendrickson on Tuesday night arrived home from her job with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and hooked up her team to a four-wheeler for a training run. The temperature was in the mid-20s.
“It was overcast, but it was essentially good visibility,” she said. “It was dark. About a half-inch of snow (on the ground) and about a half-inch of ice under that, but the highways were pretty much dry.”
The team took off on a trail that runs parallel to the Parks Highway.
After about 14 miles, at about 7:30 p.m., they were along a section of trail that’s just 4 to 6 feet from the highway.
“So we’re running along, and I realized this truck was coming toward us and it didn’t look like it would make the corner,” she said. “They weren’t really skidding. They just weren’t quite turning.”
Mabel Quilliam, 68 of Talkeetna, lost control of her SUV at Mile 91 and hit Hendrickson’s all-terrain vehicle, Alaska State Troopers said.
“I could see it coming, and there wasn’t a dang thing I could do about it,” she said.
After the collision, Hendrickson flew about 20 feet in the air and landed on her feet and then her back.
“I was conscious of the fact that there was a four-wheeler tumbling out there too, but I couldn’t tell where it was, and I knew my dogs were out there somewhere, and I couldn’t tell where they were,” she said.
From the ditch, she called Tracey Schaeffer, a Caswell musher, who organized a group to find Hendrickson’s wayward dogs.
Photos of the dogs now cover a portion of a wall near Hendrickson’s hospital bed.
She expects to remain in the hospital for several days. She will have to wear a back brace as she heals.
The musher says she’s out of the running for this year’s Iditarod race.
“Definitely no racing this year,” she said. “That’s pretty hard for me.”