Washington Avalanche Kills Two Snowmobilers, Bringing Cascade Mountain Death Toll to Six in Past Two Weeks

Washington state’s weather conditions have turned deadly as two snowmobilers died in an avalanche near Esmeralda Peak in Kittitas County on March 3. The Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office arrived to find two injured and two dead after responding to an avalanche report, according to The Seattle Times.

Related: Man killed as avalanche hits group of friends sledding in Washington state

Zach Roundtree, 27, and James Larsen, 41, were killed in the incident. Kyle Ottwell, 26, suffered serious injuries, and Ryan Journey, 27, was treated for minor injuries. Larsen was a police officer for the Bonney Lake Police Department, located in Pierce County.

According to another report in the Times, six people have died in avalanche accidents since February 25. Five were killed in the Cascade Mountains and one was caught in an avalanche in Methow Valley, located in northern Washington.

On February 25, two teens failed to return home after snowshoeing. Search and rescue crews were sent out after the boys’ parents alerted the sheriff’s office. Using GPS on one of the victim’s phones, the team found the boys on February 26, but they were already dead. The Times identified the boys as Niko Suokko, 18, and Declan Ervin, 17.

Near Stampede Pass in Kittitas County, Joseph Simenstad, 32, died from suffering serious injuries after being buried by snow while snowmobiling.

Police are still attempting to recover the body of an unnamed skier killed in an avalanche-related incident that occurred Sunday, the paper said. 

Still, there have been many successful rescues, including the return of four snowmobilers who accompanied Simenstad on the snowmobile trip. The King County Sheriff's Office shared a video of one rescue on its YouTube page.

According to the National Weather Service, about 90 percent of avalanches are triggered by people. The risk of being caught in an avalanche can be reduced by determining if you're in an area with conditions ripe for an avalanche. Such conditions include slopes steeper than 30 degrees, unstable snow, wind and groups of people.