1 killed, others injured in avalanche near Stampede Pass

EASTON, Wash. — One person is dead and others were injured after an avalanche struck a group of five people on snowmobiles on a hill near Stampede Pass on Sunday.

The Kittitas County Undersheriff confirmed to KIRO 7's Deedee Sun that the victim who died in the avalanche is 32-year-old Joseph Simenstad of Issaquah.

The undersheriff says five friends were eating lunch at the base of the hill when the slope above them broke free. The avalanche swept them away.

Joseph Simenstad, his wife, 30-year-old Sabel Simenstad,  and 24-year-old Josh Winter of Snohomish were fully buried. Winter was unconscious when he was dug out, but was revived.

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Sabel had minor injuries, but Joseph did not survive.

In addition, 29-year-old Tyler Johnson of Renton and another man, whose name is not yet known, were partially buried.

Other snowmobilers told KIRO 7 how dangerous conditions were Sunday.

Chris Leder, a snowmobiler from Arlington, described what can happen to snowmobilers in the backcountry.

"It can come sliding down and get you, you know?" he said. "There's no guarantee."

Leder said he stayed on the forest service roads today, just to be safe.

"Snowmobilers want to try to go up the hill; skiers want to go down the hill," he said. "So it's like whose sled can go the highest? Who's got the most power? Who's got this? And then one guy's up there and you break some snow loose and it comes sliding down."

"I was up there with my husband and and a friend, her husband, and decided to come back because I didn't feel comfortable snowmobiling like the guys do. I didn't want to dig myself out every two seconds." snowmobiler Trista Chamberlin said.

On its website, the Northwest Avalanche Center said the avalanche danger was "high," and there was an ominous warning: "Many of these could be big enough to kill you."

Related weather coverage: 

Sunday's system has higher snow levels above 1,000 feet. Mostly rain was reported in the lowlands.

Snow levels drop again by Monday and Tuesday with precipitation likely at times.