Cle Elum man killed in avalanche was ‘excellent’ WSP trooper

Steve Houle, 51, was a 28-year veteran of the Washington State Patrol
Avalanche victim Steve Houle Wsp
Steve Houle, 51. (Courtesy: WSP)

CLE ELUM — The body of a man overtaken in an avalanche was found Monday night. The victim was identified as Steve Houle, a veteran Washington State Patrol trooper from Cle Elum.

The Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office and Kittitas County Search and Rescue say Houle, 51, was killed in an avalanche while snowmobiling in the French Cabin Creek area north of Cle Elum.

A report of a very large avalanche came in around 12:40 p.m. Two men were caught up in the avalanche. One was partially buried and able to dig himself out near Knox Creek Trailhead. He went to the French Cabin Sno-Park to call for help, deputies reported.

The missing snowmobiler was found and identified around 7 p.m. Steve Houle was a 28-year veteran trooper with Washington State Patrol, most recently assigned to the Commercial Vehicle Division, according to the sheriff’s office.

“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 Clay Myers said Monday evening. “This is a tragic accident and will be felt hard in our close-knit law enforcement community.”

WSP confirmed the tragedy in a post on Facebook.

“Steve was a great person and an excellent employee, loved and respected by us all,” wrote WSP Chief John Batiste. “We hold his memory and his family close to our hearts in this painfully sad time.”

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Search and recovery efforts continued into the evening despite warnings of high-risk danger. Officials noted that the western United States has seen an uptick in avalanche risk in recent weeks.

The Northwest Avalanche Center reported, prior to Monday’s discovery, that 15 people across the U.S. had died in avalanche accidents since January 30.

“That period includes the highest number of recreationist avalanche fatalities ever recorded over a single week in the U.S. (historical records compiled by CAIC),” NWAC reported.

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