ANCHORAGE - A 20-year-old man had been drinking before he set off on a frozen trail and rammed a dog sled with his snowmobile, killing the musher and severely injuring a passenger in the sled, authorities said Friday.
State troopers said they also are investigating reports that snowmobile driver Patrick Tickett and his passenger declined requests by the injured woman, Tracy Schaeffer, for one of them remain at the scene.
The woman's husband, Chuck Schaeffer, said his wife told him she could have used assistance tying a tourniquet on the mangled leg of Roger Gollub, a 53-year-old Anchorage pediatrician who treated Alaska Native children. Gollub was making his first sled dog run, courtesy of Schaeffer, an occupational therapist who runs a mushing excursion business on the side. Chuck Schaeffer said his wife let the doctor drive to give him the full mushing experience.
Gollub ultimately died after the crash Wednesday night, a few miles from the coastal town of Kotzebue.
Both Tickett and his passenger, 20-year-old Clarissa Cleveland, headed back to Kotzebue to look for help. They went on foot because the snowmobile's belt broke, but they soon encountered another snowmobiler who took them back to town.
Chuck Schaeffer said Friday his 39-year-old wife remained hospitalized in Anchorage after undergoing surgery. She was in critical but stable condition and hooked up to a ventilator to help her breathe, he said.
"I guess we're finally realizing there was an amazing amount of injury," he said. "Basically, one side of her body caved in."
Troopers said it was too soon in their investigation to say if they will pursue criminal charges against Tickett or Cleveland, who both live in the village of Ambler. Complicating the case, the victims already had been taken to the local hospital by the time troopers were notified and made it to the scene, said Sgt. Karl Main.
He said alcohol is believed to be a factor in the crash.
"The driver was consuming alcohol sometime that day," he said, adding that toxicology tests will help gauge exactly how much alcohol was in Tickett's system near the time of the collision.
Troopers also are reviewing the 911 call initially made to local police and they plan to interview Tracy Schaeffer when her condition allows.
"We're still trying to determine what really happened," Main said.
Tracy Schaeffer told her husband she had flashed her headlamp toward the snowmobile as it sped up from behind, but it slammed into the sled anyway. Main said investigators also are looking into this.
The impact scattered the 10 dogs, but they were later rounded up in good condition.
Chuck Schaeffer said he finally was able to speak to Gollub's wife, listed in state records as Diane Abrahams-Gollub. He said they both noted that the doctor died doing something he long wanted to try.
"He was pretty excited to do it," Schaeffer said. "I think that was a comfort to both us."