By Elise Takahama
The Seattle Times
KITTITAS COUNTY, Wash. — A 51-year-old Washington State Patrol veteran caught in an avalanche while snow biking Monday near Cle Elem Lake was found dead, authorities said.
Trooper Steve Houle, who worked with the State Patrol’s commercial vehicle division for 28 years, went missing Monday afternoon during an avalanche near the French Cabin Creek area and Knox Creek trailhead, according to the State Patrol and the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities received reports of two men missing in the avalanche around 12:40 p.m., the sheriff’s office said in a statement. One of the men was able to dig himself out and call for help, the statement said. Rescue teams recovered the body of the other man, later identified as Houle, around 7 p.m.
“Steve was a great person and an excellent employee, loved and respected by us all,” 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.”
The Northwest Avalanche Center said two snow bikers were “caught and buried in a very large avalanche” near Salmon La Sac Sno-Park by Cle Elum Lake. One of the bikers was able to dig himself out, but the other was “fully buried,” the center said in a statement.
The avalanche occurred at about 4,400 feet elevation in the Knox Creek drainage, according to the center.
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