Man Killed as Avalanche Hits Group of Friends Sledding in Washington State

A police photograph of the scene where an avalanche struck a party of five people near Lake Mirror, Washington, on Sunday, February 25. Police handout

A 32-year-old man was killed and several injured after being hit by an avalanche near Lake Mirror in Washington state, authorities said.

The man killed has been identified as Joseph Simenstad of Issaquah, Washington.

He was sledding with his wife and four other friends near the city of Cle Elum "when the slope above them broke free," police said.

Simenstad, his wife Sabel Simenstad, and a male friend, Josh Winter, were fully buried by the snow. The two other members of the group were partially buried, said Kittitas County Sheriff's department in a Facebook page statement.

All were dug out by police.

"Josh Winter was unconscious when recovered but was able to be revived. Mrs. Simenstad suffered minor injuries, but her husband, Joseph, had suffered extensive trauma and could not be revived," said police.

Undersheriff Clay Myers said the department's "thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Mr. Simenstad as they work through the loss of their loved one."

He urged those traveling in the backcountry "to be cautious of the past and current conditions, as they can change rapidly and without warning. Avalanche conditions are often the result of previous weather, sometimes from weeks prior. We encourage you to research and educate yourselves from the many sources available. Just Google 'Avalanche Danger'."

Earlier, he warned that "conditions are extremely hazardous.

"The avalanche center has recommended no one go into that area due to the conditions, so we are pulling in only those who are trained and equipped for these conditions."

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, 12 death from avalanches were recorded nationally in the winter of 2016-2017, which is 18 fewer than the previous year.