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Washington state trooper killed in avalanche

Trooper Steve Houle was riding a snow bike at the time of Monday's deadly avalanche in Kittitas County.

A veteran Washington state trooper was killed in an avalanche while snowmobiling Monday, according to authorities.

Image: Portrait Washington State Patrol Trooper Steve Houle.
Steve Houle.Washington State Patrol

Rescuers recovered the body of Steve Houle, 51, around 7 p.m. after an avalanche hours earlier buried him and another snowmobiler near the French Cabin Creek area, Kittitas County Sheriff Clayton Myers said in a press release.

The other person was able to dig himself out and call for help at the nearby French Cabin Sno-Park in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, according to the sheriff.

“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,” Myers said in a press release. “This is a tragic accident and will be felt hard in our close-knit law enforcement community.”

NBC News affiliate KING reported that Houle was riding a snow bike, which is a narrower snowmobile, at the time of the avalanche around midday Monday.

On social media, Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste called Houle "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," Batiste said.

Trooper John Bryant told KING that Houle was "someone you can count on."

"The fact that next time he's not going to be around, it's hard to imagine," Bryant continued.

KING reporter Vanessa Misciagna posted a video showing a police and rescue vehicle escort for Houle's body.

Houle had been with the Washington State Patrol for 28 years, the agency said.

According to the Northwest Avalanche Center, the area is currently under a "considerable" avalanche warning. In a post Sunday, the center said the avalanche danger in Kittitas County was high.

The Washington state avalanche occurred just days after another deadly snowslide killed four Utah skiers, according to NBC News.

Since the start of the month, over a dozen people have been killed by avalanches in the U.S., according to the Northwest Avalanche Center's count.

"We ask that you be patient, read the forecast, and choose terrain in line with current conditions," the Avalanche Center said.

The Kittitas County Sheriff's Office, which is handling the investigation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.