The body of a snowmobiler buried in an avalanche in the mountains of Washington state on Monday has been recovered and identified as a longtime sta
The body of a snowmobiler buried in an avalanche in the mountains of Washington state on Monday has been recovered and identified as a longtime state trooper.
Trooper Steve Houle, 51, and another man were caught in the avalanche around 12:40 p.m. near Knox Creek Trailhead in the French Cabin Creek area north of Cle Elum, about 83 miles east of Seattle, the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office said.
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The other man, whose identity was not given, was partially buried in the slide, the sheriff’s office said. He was able to dig himself out but could not find Houle. The man returned to French Cabin Creek and called for help.
Houle was fully buried in the “very large” avalanche, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center, and was reported missing.
Search and rescue teams located Houle’s buried body around 7 p.m., the sheriff’s office said.
“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,” Sheriff Clayton Myers said in a statement on Monday. “This is a tragic accident and will be felt hard in our close-knit law enforcement community.”
Houle was a 28-year veteran trooper with Washington State Patrol. He was most recently assigned to the Commercial Vehicle Division.
“Steve was a great person and an excellent employee, loved and respected by us all,” Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said in a statement. “We hold his memory and his family close to our hearts in this painfully sad time.”
Officials said that avalanche danger has been “very high” across the Western U.S. in the last few weeks.
At least 15 people in the U.S. have died in avalanche accidents since Jan. 30, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
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Authorities have advised recreationists to check avalanche forecasts and to be properly prepared before venturing out.