Crookston native assists in rescue of friend near the finish line of Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska

    Crookston’s own “Mushin Mortician,” Scott Janssen competed once again in the iconic Iditarod sled dog race, the most famous race of its kind across Alaska, but his latest venture in the competition ended in premature yet heroic fashion last Friday when he came across fellow musher and friend, Jim Lanier, who was stuck in an area on White Mountain that’s notorious for its harsh weather conditions.

    According to a story in the Anchorage Daily News, Janssen, 56, stopped to help Lanier, 77, who was starting to feel the effects of the nasty weather. Janssen requested emergency assistance, and the Iditarod Trail Committee responded with a snowmachine. When it arrived, instead of continuing on in the race Janssen elected to drop out of the race and accompany Lanier to Nome to make sure he was OK. Eventually, they were flown by helicopter to Nome.

    As a result of Janssen’s efforts, he was presented with the Iditarod Sportsmanship Award.

    When he came upon Lanier, Janssen and his 11 dogs were only 45 miles from the Iditarod finish line. Lanier was stuck on a piece of driftwood on the frozen Bering Sea, and reported another racer had passed by him in the blizzard conditions without seeing him. Janssen told Alaska media that Lanier encouraged him to keep going and leave him behind, but Janssen said he couldn’t leave his longtime friend and mentor there.

    "The guy is a mortician, so he made a joke about how if they found us frozen to death, he would make sure we had the right sized coffins," Lanier told the Newser Post.

    "I told Jim that American society should be like what we are now, a Democrat and a Republican helping each other out," Janssen said. Had the Republican not seen his friend, a Democrat, "I wouldn't be able to live with myself," Janssen added. But "I knew I was going to die if someone didn't come along."

    After five hours, the Daily News reported, rescuers arrived early Friday to find the men safe, reports the Anchorage Daily News. Their dogs, rescued a short time later, were in good condition.

    Read Laurel Andrews’ full story in the Anchorage Daily News at