Avalanche In Kittitas County
Claims Life Of Issaquah man
As afternoon of snomobiling with
friends turns to tragedy
February 26, 2018
Scene of avalanche rescue area. Photo: Kittitas County Sheriff's Search & Rescue.
CLICK TO ENLARGE. LARGER IMAGE OF ABOVE. Scene of avalanche rescue area. Photo: Kittitas County Sheriff's Search & Rescue.
(KITTITAS COUNTY, WA.) – The Kittitas County Sheriff’s office says a day of fun in the mountains on snowmobiles turned to tragedy Sunday when a group of snow sledders from western Washington were caught unaware by a sudden avalanche.
Just before 5 pm Sunday, Undersheriff Clay Meyers issued a statement saying that the sheriff’s office Search & Rescue team was “responding to a fatal avalanche 16 miles West of Cle Elum, 5 miles South of I-90.”
Meyers said a group of 5 people from western Washington were at the base of a snow covered hill in the Stampede Pass area near Mirror Lake eating lunch when all of a sudden the snow above them broke loose and came roaring down upon them.
All of them were hit by the avalanche. “When the slide stopped, 32 year old Joseph Simenstad, his wife, 30 year old Sabel Simenstad of Issaquah and 24 year old Josh Winter of Snohomish were fully buried,” said Meyers. “Twenty-nine year old Tyler Johnson of Renton and another man, whose name is not known at this time, were partially buried.”
Meyers described snow conditions at the time as “extremely hazardous.”
“Working with others in the area, all were dug out,” added Meyers. “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.”
Meyers also issued a statement saying on behalf of the Sheriff's Office, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Mr. Simenstad as they work through the loss of their loved one. We would like to remind those of you who recreate in the back country 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'."
A check late Sunday night with the website of the Northwest Avalanche Center (NAC) (https://www.nwac.us/) showed that avalanche conditions in the Cascade mountains from down near Portland, Oregon all the way up through Washington State to the Canadian border were “considerable below, near & above” treeline.
The designation “considerable’ is one grade below “high” and two grades below “extreme” danger.
Back country users are encouraged to check with the NAC’s website to understand the level of danger before going into the mountains during winter snow conditions.