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Former Beargrease-winning team struck by snowmobile in hit-and-run in Bayfield County

Two of Ryan Redington's dogs were injured.

Beargrease musher Ryan Redington nears the Arrowhead Trail during the 2021 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.
Beargrease musher Ryan Redington nears the Arrowhead Trail during the 2021 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. Two of Redington's dogs were injured when a snowmobile struck his team Saturday, Jan. 8, 2021.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune
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Two-time John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon winner Ryan Redington was still shaken Monday after a Saturday hit-and-run incident with a snowmobile left two of his dogs injured.

Redington, the 2020 and 2018 race winner from Knik, Alaska, was training on the multiuse Tri-County Corridor Trail in Bayfield County when he saw a snowmobile speeding toward him. The snowmobile veered to its left, causing Redington to tip his sled off the trail. Two dogs nearest to the sled were hit.

“I had a snowmobile go by us at a high rate of speed,” Redington said in a phone interview Monday. “When he went by, he was really close to the dogs on the opposite side of the trail. He unfortunately hit dogs as he went by, resulting in multiple dogs being hurt. We’re on our way to the vet’s right now for one to have surgery because his back leg got broken in three places.”

Wildfire, the dog headed into surgery, “went into the air and flying from the impact,” Redington said.

Sarah Keefer, another Beargrease musher from Burnsville, Minnesota, was training with her team about a minute behind Redington when she encountered the same snowmobile.

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“All the other snowmobiles I had been encountering were slow,” Keefer said. “This guy came straight down the middle of the trail at a high speed and only veered off away from the team at the last second before hitting the dogs.”

020321.N.DNT.BeargreaseC10.jpg
Beargrease racers Sarah Keefer (5) and Ryan Redington both pedal on a hill as they near the Arrowhead Trail road crossing during the 2021 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. Keefer was nearly struck by a snowmobile moments after two of Redington's dogs were injured by the same machine.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune

No dogs on the second team were injured. Keefer said her team should have been highly visible since there was a light on the sled and a blinking light on the lead dog.

Keefer continued up the trail and found Redington asking if she or her team had been hit by the snowmobile.

“He said, ‘He hit my team,’ and I was in disbelief,” Keefer said. “I just couldn’t believe that could actually happen.”

Redington will still be able to participate in the Beargrease when it starts Jan. 30. Wildfire and Willy — the other dog injured — however, are two of the key dogs from Redington’s 2021 Iditarod team.

While Wildfire’s injuries could cause his leg to be amputated, Redington was optimistic the surgery will help him race again.

“Hopefully, one day he’ll be able to race again,” he said. “He’s a young dog and he’s got a long career ahead of him if the surgery is successful.”

Redington and Keefer said they’ve never had an incident like this on the trails.

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“I’ve never had an incident with a snowmobile, they’ve all been really great,” Redington said. “I like snowmobilers and I’m not trying to have this be a bad name for snowmobilers. It’s just an unfortunate event where the person, I think, was drunk.”

Still, the incident resulted in injuries not just to members of Redington’s race team, but also to what he considers to be members of his family.

“These guys are super athletes, but they’re my family,” Redington said. “I spend every day with them and it’s heartbreaking to see what they’ve had to go through. It’s very, very sad and it shouldn’t happen.”

Redington filed a report with the Bayfield County Sheriff’s Office, but so far they don’t have any suspects, according to Chief Deputy Andy Runice. Runice encouraged anyone with information about the incident to call 715-373-6120.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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