A Washington State Patrol trooper was killed in an avalanche while he was snowmobiling in Kittitas County, officials said late Monday. The county sheriff's office identified the man as Trooper Steve Houle, who served 28 years with the patrol.
On Monday afternoon, the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue crews responded to the avalanche, which happened in the French Cabin Creek area near Knox Trailhead.
Deputies told CBS affiliate KIRO-TV that Houle, 51, and another man were on snowmobiles when they were caught in the avalanche. Houle's riding partner was able to get out but he couldn't find Houle.
After a search, crews found Houle's body in the snow.
"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," said WSP Chief John Batiste.
Authorities say avalanche danger has been very high recently across the western United States. Houle is at least the 15th person to die in an avalanche in just over a week in the U.S.