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Iditarod Memorial Damaged during Unannounced Move

Published On: Jun 26 2013 05:11:45 PM AKDT   Updated On: Jun 27 2013 03:26:22 AM AKDT
Iditarod Memorial Damaged during Unannounced Move

A memorial commemorating the victims of a plane crash during the 1980 Iditarod lies dismantled and damaged this week only 100 yards from where it was originally erected in 1983, south of the Iditarod trail.

A Spanish media outlet commissioned the six-ton memorial cross after three men from a Spanish documentary crew and well-known Alaska bush pilot Warren "Ace" Dodson died while covering the Iditarod. Their plane crashed just south of Shaktoolik two days before the first racer crossed the finish line.

The granite cross, which originally stood at 4155 Tudor Centre Dr., was damaged when it was moved because of a construction project. Each of its four pieces have numerous scratches. A section of the base is chipped and the brass plaque is no longer attached.

A spokesperson with Barabara Construction, which moved the memorial about two weeks ago, says workers did their best to preserve it and removed the plaque to keep it from being stolen.

Although the damage to the memorial wasn't intentional, it's still a source of criticism. For Rob Stapleton, a longtime Alaska photographer and close friend of Dodson, seeing the dismantled cross brought back memories.

"I flew with Peter Henning and Ace in an SRJR, which is a historic aircraft generation, on the Iditarod and it was all about aviation -- I mean, he flew the race and he did it in an old way," Stapleton said. "It was tragedy when they crashed outside of Shaktoolik and I don't think this is a very good way to honor those folks."

The monument is part of Iditarod history according to Mark Nordman, the Iditarod's race director and race marshal. Nordman said he didn't know the memorial had been moved until he went to see the pieces Wednesday, but believes it's repairable -- although he plans to keep an eye on the rebuilding process.

"What we need to do, probably, is promote it more in the future," Nordman said. "Let people see what was done here in memory of these people."

Channel 2's Mallory Peebles contributed information to this story.