SALT LAKE CITY - Petty Officer 2nd Class Gina Panuzzi of Lacey was one of two crew members in critical condition Thursday after a Coast Guard helicopter crashed in the Utah mountains.
The helicopter with five aboard crashed Wednesday morning as the crew was headed back to its base in Elizabeth City, N.C., after providing security support for the Winter Olympics.
University Hospital officials said that Cmdr. Patrick Shaw of Juneau, Alaska and Panuzzi remained in critical condition. Both suffered internal injuries.
A third crew member, Lt. Cmdr. Steven Cerveny of Lincoln, Neb., was in serious condition after suffering a broken leg.
Two others aboard were not seriously injured.
The Coast Guard planned to begin its investigation into the crash on Thursday.
Authorities said snow and wind affected visibility but they don’t know if that’s what caused the crash.
The MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter was one of two traveling through the area after a security detail for the Vancouver Games, said Dan Dewell, a spokesman for the Coast Guard’s 11th District in Alameda, Calif.
The helicopters made a refueling stop in Salt Lake City — one of several required for the long trip — and were headed to Leadville, Colo., before spending the night in Kansas City.
The helicopter went down in a snowy, wooded area about 50 miles east of Salt Lake City.
Coast Guard officials didn’t immediately know why the helicopter went down. Blizzard-like conditions were reported at the time of the crash, said Chief Mike Hvozda, a spokesman for the Coast Guard’s 5th district, which includes Air Station Elizabeth City.
The helicopter ended up on its side in a heavily wooded area accessible only by snowmobile, said Sgt. Jeremy Hales of the Wasatch County sheriff’s office.
The second helicopter spotted the wreckage but had to refuel before it returned to pick up two of the injured, according to Lt. Col. Susan Romano, of the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center in Panama City, Fla. A third crew member was flown out in a second helicopter.
All were taken to University Hospital at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
The two others aboard the helicopter were Petty Officer 3rd Class Darren Hicks, 22, Oroville, Wash.; and Petty Officer 3rd Class Edward Sychra, 26, Blanchard, Ind., according to the Coast Guard.
The crash hits hard with the close-knit Coast Guard community, Hvozda said.
“Whenever we hear something like this, your heart immediately goes out to the folks involved and their families,” he said.