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Sled dog team for Bemidji lawmaker collides with truck

One dog was killed and two others injured early Sunday when a Northland musher's sled dog team collided with a truck at a road crossing while competing in a race in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The musher, Frank Moe of Hovland, was not injured in the crash that took place during the annual U.P. 200 race from Marquette to Grand Marais, Mich., and back.

Pat Torreano, president of the Upper Peninsula Sled Dog Association which organizes the race, called the incident "a complete accident." She said a volunteer tried to halt Moe's dog team before the crossing but explained: "All the dogs were barking, and the musher really couldn't hear."

"There was no way to stop the team, and we can't stop cars on the highway. It's not allowed," she said.

According to the Michigan State Police, the collision occurred at about 5:40 a.m. at the Wetmore, Mich., checkpoint as teams were heading back to Marquette. Wetmore is a few miles south of Munising in the central U.P.

Police said the sled dog team "inadvertently crossed (state Highway) 28" in front of an eastbound pickup truck. The 65-year-old driver of the truck had slowed down prior to the crash but was unable to avoid striking the team. Police said the driver of the truck was not injured, and was not cited.

The two injured dogs were listed in "serious but stable condition" Sunday afternoon, according to Torreano. She said the pair remained under the care of the Gwinn-Sawyer Veterinary Clinic.

Moe, 47, did not respond to a cell phone message from the Duluth News Tribune on Sunday. Torreano said he had spent the morning with his injured dogs and was finally getting some badly needed rest.

Meanwhile, Torreano said volunteers and racers, alike, were taking news of the accident hard.

"We work all year round to make this as safe a race as possible. We're all like family, and it feels like one of our own got hurt out there today," she said. "We're just thankful that Frank and the crossing guard weren't hurt, too."

Torreano said Sunday's accident was the first vehicle-sled team collision in the race's 27-year history.

Moe ­-- a former DFL state representative from Bemidji -- was vying for the race's lead when misfortune struck.

"He was very much in the mix at the time," said Torreano, noting that Moe was in second or third place before he was forced to quit the race.

Moe has been mushing for more than a decade. According to a biography he posted on the U.P. 200 website, he had competed in that race the past three years. He also took part in the Northland's John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in 2010 and 2011; the Gunflint Mail Run in 2012; and the Gichigami Express race in Cook County in January.

Last March, Moe visited Duluth while mushing from the North Shore to the state Capitol in St. Paul. He was carrying petitions signed by about 10,000 people, calling on state lawmakers to halt development of copper-nickel mines in northern Minnesota until environmental concerns are addressed.