KITTITAS COUNTY, Wash. — A trooper with the Washington State Patrol (WSP) was killed in an avalanche southeast of Seattle on Monday.
The Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office says the trooper, 51-year-old Steve Houle, was snowmobiling with another person when the large avalanche overtook them.
The sheriff’s office says it received a report of the two people trapped near Knox Creek Trailhead around 12:40 p.m.
One of the snowmobilers was able to dig himself out and make his way to the French Cabin Creek sno-park to find help, but the sheriff’s office says he was unable to locate Houle.
Search and rescue crews responded and were able to locate Houle around 7 p.m. and he was pronounced dead.
Houle was 28-year veteran of the WSP and was most recently assigned to the Commercial Vehicle Division.
“Steve was a great person and an excellent employee, loved and respected by us all. We hold his memory and his family close to our hearts in this painfully sad time,” wrote WSP Chief John Batiste in a statement.
“On behalf of the sheriff’s office, I would like to extend our deepest condolences to Trooper Houle’s family, friends and the Washington State Patrol,” said Sheriff Clayton Myers in a statement Monday evening. “This is a tragic accident and will be felt hard in our close-knit law enforcement community.”
The United States has seen an uptick in avalanche-related deaths this year. In fact, in early February, the U.S. recorded its deadliest week for avalanches since 1910.
Between Jan. 30 and Feb. 6, 15 people died in avalanches in the U.S. — the most in that time frame since 1910, when 96 people died on the west side of Stevens Pass in Washington in a massive avalanche, KMGH found.