Bonney Lake policeman, Air Force vet die in Kittitas County avalanche

One of those killed Saturday, March 3,2017, in a Kittitas County avalanche was Bonney Lake Police Officer James Larsen. (Photo: City of Bonney Lake)

KITTITAS COUNTY, Wash.. -- Two snowmobile riders from Pierce County were killed and a third was seriously injured Saturday in an avalanche.

One of those killed was a veteran Bonney Lake police officer. Another was an Air Force veteran for a love of the outdoors.

The city of Bonney Lake identified the police officer as 41-year-old James Larsen, who had been with the city for 14 years. On Sunday, a memorial grew outside the Bonney Lake Police Department.

The Kittitas County Sheriff's Office said the avalanche was north of Esmeralda Peak, which is 20 miles northeast of Cle Elum. Rescue crews responded Saturday afternoon to the reports of an avalanche.

The Sheriff's Office said the avalanche occurred above 4,600 feet.

The Sheriff's Office identified the other man who died as Zach Roundtree, 27, of Bonney Lake. He is the son of a longtime employee of the Bonney Lake Public Works Department, his father said.

Roundtree's father, Curt, remembered his son on Sunday as a man who loved the freedom of being on his dirt bike, quad or snowmobile.

"Zachary was a kind, gentle, loving, caring young man. You know, he'd give you the shirt off his back. He's just a great kid," his father said. "He’s gonna be greatly missed."

"Of course every parent hopes to wake up, you know, and he'll come knock on my door. We know now that it's not going to happen. It's every parent's worst nightmare," Roundtree added.

A third man, Kyle Ottwell, 26, of Bonney Lake was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with serious injuries, the Sheriff's Office said. He was listed in satisfactory condition as of Sunday evening, a hospital spokeswoman told KOMO News.

All three were fully buried by an avalanche, the Sheriff's Office says.

A fourth man, Ryan Journey, 27, of Bonney Lake, suffered minor injuries. The Sheriff's Office said he was partially buried and managed to free himself.

Larsen, who lived in Buckley, leaves behind his parents and two sisters, He had also worked for the Yelm Police Department.

Bonney Lake police officers escorted his body to the Kittitas County Medical Examiner's Office.

Flags in Bonney Lake have been lowered to half-staff. Information on funeral services is pending.

Kittitas County Search & Rescue responded, Yakima County Search & Rescue helped, along with aircrews from King and Chelan counties.

Kittitas County Undersheriff Clayton Meyers noted that avalanche dangers remain high and that there have been five avalanche deaths in the last seven days.

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