Friday, November 21, 2008

Tragedy Near Kotzebue

According to today's issue of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, an Anchorage pediatrician visiting in Kotzebue was killed when a speeding snow machine driven by a drunk crashed into the dog sled he was driving. The owner of the team, riding in the basket, was severely injured in the wreck.

"Alaska State Troopers said 53-year-old Roger Gollub was killed in the crash Wednesday night a few miles from the town of Kotzebue. A local woman riding in the sled, Tracy Schaeffer, was severely injured and was in critical condition Thursday after she was flown to a hospital in Anchorage. Her husband, Chuck Schaeffer, said she broke all the ribs on one side and had to undergo heart surgery and removal of her spleen."

Most trails in Alaska are multi-use trails, open to anyone who wishes to use them regardless of the mode of transportation. One would like to think that a person on snowshoes, skis or a dog team would be reasonably safe but all too often a pedestrian, skier or dog team is struck by alcohol befuddled asshole riding a machine at an astonishingly insane rate of speed.

The most vexing thing about the situation is that there is no practical way to prevent these senseless collisions. With an extremely limited highway system, winter trails are the only practical means of travel throughout most of Alaska. Snowmachine manufacturers are delighted to meet the wishes of their customers, who seek ever more powerful and faster machines. Even if the legislature were to pass new laws establishing speed or power limits there is no practical way to enforce such laws, especially out in the bush.

Although some would advocate bans on alcohol, America's experience during the 1920s & '30s e coupled with our modern "War on Drugs" provides ample evidenc prohibitions are destined to fail.

Even in our relatively more densely populated community of Two Rivers, conflicts between snowmachines and muscle-powered trail users are inevitable. I am not the only dog musher who consciously avoids traveling the trails on Friday or Saturday night, when the citiots are most inclined to mix alcohol and gasoline.

I'm a paramedic by trade. My only consolation is that so long as alcohol and stupidity reign supreme I will always have a job.

1 comment:

  1. Its a good thing that Lance Mackey jumped off his sled at the last minute before that snowmobiler ran up the back of his sled and injuried his dogs on the last leg of the All Alaskan Sweepstakes race last March. The Frekings had a snowmobiler plow into Jen's Team killing one of her dogs this last Iditarod. At least you don't see snowmobilers when there is no snow but they maybe drunk on their ATVs! Dave