Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza critically injured in motorcycle accident

Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza.
Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza. sbloom@theolympian.com

Update 7:45 p.m. Wednesday:

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office announced that Sheriff John Snaza has improved since Tuesday night. He underwent surgery at 4 p.m. to fuse a bone in his neck.

The surgery went well, and he is listed in critical but stable condition.

Snaza is still under heavy sedation, and his breathing is being assisted by a ventilator. Hospital staff do not believe there will be changes to his condition overnight, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office hopes to provide daily updates about his condition.

The Snaza family has asked that the Sheriff’s Office be the point of contact for any cards, flowers or well wishes at this time. They may be sent to 2000 Lakeridge Dr. SW, Olympia.

Original story:

Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza suffered life-threatening injuries Tuesday in an off-duty motorcycle accident in Montana.

Snaza had been traveling with a group of friends on Highway 200 at milepost 23 near Noxon when he lost control of his bike while driving around a curve, said Trooper Steve Gaston of the Montana Highway Patrol. Snaza may have been trying to pass the other motorcyclists and went off of an embankment. He wasn’t wearing a helmet.

“The fact that he was not wearing a helmet probably contributed significantly to his injuries,” Gaston said.

In Montana, motorcyclists age 18 and older aren’t required to wear helmets.

Snaza was airlifted to Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Snaza was in critical condition, according to hospital staff.

Gaston said Snaza was riding a 2009 Harley Davidson. Weather was not a factor in the crash, and Snaza was traveling at highway speed. The crash is still under investigation.

A Sanderson County dispatch report noted that he had head, arm and leg injuries.

Thurston County Lt. Tim Rudloff said the sheriff’s office learned of the accident late Tuesday. Snaza has a twin brother, Robert Snaza, who serves as sheriff of Lewis County.

“The mood is not good,” Rudloff said. “We’re pretty devastated.”

Undersheriff Tim Braniff was heading to Coeur d’Alene to be with the Snaza family, Rudloff said Wednesday.

Snaza, 51, is a Navy veteran who was first hired by the sheriff’s office in 1993 and became Thurston County sheriff following the 2010 election. He is vice president of the Washington State Sheriffs’ Association and serves on a number of executive boards including the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, the Family Support Center, and Big Brothers Big Sisters for Southwest Washington.