Tragedy won’t slow U.P. 200 progress going forward

Another U.P. 200 Sled Dog Championship, the 24th, wrapped up this weekend.

There were a lot of success stories on the trail – including the fourth consecutive win for Minnesota musher Ryan Anderson – and one somber story.

Frank Moe, of Bemidji, Minn., was leaving the Wetmore checkpoint, on the return leg of the race near Munising, shortly after 5:30 a.m.?Sunday when his team was struck by a pickup truck as he was attempting to cross M-28.

One of Moe’s dogs was killed and two others seriously injured in the crash. It was the first collision between a dog team and a vehicle in the U.P. 200’s history.

Pat Torreano, president of the Upper Peninsula Sled Dog Association, said two volunteers wearing reflective gear were at the road crossings and did their best to stop the accident.

They attempted to warn Moe of the oncoming vehicle, but he was unable to hear their calls. They also attempted to stop the team from entering the highway but were unsuccessful.

The Michigan State Police have determined the collision was an accident and no citations were issued.

The sled dog association’s board of directors met Sunday night to discuss the accident and how they can prevent future crashes. We’re confident they’ll come up with additional safety measures and procedures.

The race organizers have always worked diligently to make the sled dog marathon as safe as it can possibly be – but there’s a limit to their ability to minimize risks.

The U.P. 200 continues to capture part of the essence of our untamed Peninsula: the solitude of the rugged north woods, the confrontation of man and dog team versus nature. There will always be some danger on the trail.

Certainly the mushers are aware of the perils they may face in this race – ranging from blizzards to mudholes, from snowmobiles to cars. The U.P. 200 is, after all, a qualifying race for Alaska’s fabled Iditarod.

In the past, race officials showed their ability to adapt and respond to safety issues. We’re sure they will do the same following this year’s unfortunate accident.