It's been almost four months since a plane following the Iron Dog snowmachine race crashed near the Rainy Pass Lodge, badly injuring both pilot Robert Stone and his passenger, former Iron Dog racer Jason Wichman.
Wichman suffered brain trauma and is now making small improvements in his recovery, according to his wife Christina Wichman. Stone tells Channel 2 that he broke bones in his face and his pelvis, as well as both femurs and feet -- but is following Wichman's recovery through close friends.
Christina Wichman says it could be a full year before doctors know the full extent of her husband’s brain injuries. He is currently in a coma and being treated at the Craig Hospital in Colorado. Wichman says her husband just began vocalizing and making eye movements, both of which are a good sign.
Jason Wichman is a three-time Iron Dog finisher. He withdrew from the 2013 Iron Dog due to an injury but chose to follow his former teammate, Aaron Bartel, in a chase plane not connected with the race. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the Cessna 170B crashed on Pontilla Lake after taking off and turning around during the first day of the race.
The Iron Dog organization is holding a fundraiser for Wichman's family Tuesday. Iron Dog official Laurel Hickel says less than a week before the event, it's already raised $1,500 through silent auction items. The full list of auction items available for bidding can be found on the Iron Dog website, and Hickel says race officials are still accepting donations to add to it.
The Wichman fundraiser is being held at the Kendall Toyota in Anchorage, at 6930 Old Seward Hwy., at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The event, which is open to the public, is sponsored by Spenard Builders Supply and Rockstar (Odom of Alaska).
Christina Wichman says the support she has recieved from friends, family and the Iron Dog organization is more than she imagined.
"So many people have helped us already and I don't even know everyone that's helped us," Christina Wichman said. "I don't know how to say thank you to everybody. It's helped us a lot, (to) get to where we are. We have had tons of support and I hold everybody dear to my heart."
Contact Mallory Peebles