3 sled dogs killed, 1 hurt in Alaska crash with Polaris snowmobile test rider

 Exterior of the Roseau Minnesota Polaris plant that produces ATVs and snowmobiles.(Photo By BRUCE BISPING/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

A Polaris snowmobile test rider from Minnesota was involved in an accident with a dog sled team that killed three dogs and injured a fourth in Alaska on Monday.

The Alaska State Troopers said in a press release at 5:38 p.m. on Dec. 11, troopers learned of a "snowmachine" that had collided with a sled dog team near Cantwell, along the Denali Highway. The incident killed three dogs and injured a fourth. No humans were hurt in the collision. 

The operator of the snowmobile, who is from Minnesota, stopped to render aid, troopers said. 

In a post on social media, Mike Parker said he was mushing with a sled dog team when a group of riders on snowmachines collided with the dogs, killing three and injuring a fourth. The dogs who were named Jonn Lennon, a 4.5-year-old male; Buttercup, a 7-year-old female; and Solo, a 3-year-old female. KitKat, a 7-year-old girl, suffered a fractured femur and other injuries. 

"Words cannot describe how important and meaningful these animals are to me …," Parker wrote in the post. "From a sled dog perspective, they were all fantastic leaders that have competed in Iditarod, won the Kobuk 440, and shined in countless other races, including setting a speed record in the Hal Bartko Nome Sign 40 with me last year and helping me complete two Iditarod qualifying races. As companions, they were sweet, gentle and full of personality. They truly embodied the Alaskan spirit and will live on through their teammates and in my heart."

Parker said a similar incident happened along the same highway recently.  

In a statement to FOX 9, Minnesota-based Polaris said one of its snowmobile test riders was involved in a "tragic accident," adding "Our deep sympathies go out to the family that lost three of their beloved sled dogs."

Polaris said it is cooperating with local law enforcement and conducting its own internal investigation. The company added, "Based on our investigation thus far, our employee was following Polaris’ safe riding protocols, including operating at an appropriate speed."

Polaris' statement continues:

"Safe riding is central to how we operate. Our employees who are responsible for testing our snowmobiles are expert riders that have significant riding experience. For example, last year alone our test team put on over 200,000 miles on test sleds. In addition to their long-time riding experience, our test riders must meet our detailed training requirements, which includes industry training, as well as internal trainings and meeting our internal requirements. They are required to follow our riding safety protocols, such as staying within posted speed limits, wearing proper riding gear, and abiding by regulations of the local area.

"Our snowmobiles are used by customers across the country and around the world. To design and engineer sleds that meet the broad needs, environments, and locations of our customers, we test our snowmobiles at our facility in Roseau, Minnesota, along with other areas around the globe, including in Alaska since the 1960s. We’re not aware of any other accidents involving our snowmobile test riders and sled dog teams."