Arizona state senator dies in horse-riding accident

Arizona State Senator Chester Crandall.
Arizona State Senator Chester Crandall.

Flags will fly at half-staff across Arizona this week following the death of State Senator Chester Crandall in what authorities say was a horse-riding accident.

Navajo County Sheriff’s officials have confirmed that he died on Monday while riding near Heber-Overgaard, Arizona.

The senator, aged 68, left for a one-hour ride around 10am on what investigators were told was a “new colt”.

When he did not return as planned, family members mounted a search on DeSpain Ranch, which is north and east of Heber-Overgaard, about 230km north of Phoenix.

Family members found him around 2pm on the route that he had described before leaving.

They called 911 and dispatchers sent deputies and medical personal to the scene.

Family members reported that Crandall was deceased when they found him. His horse was found in the area.

“Medical examiners and detectives are now trying to determine the cause and manner of death, and no other details are available at this time,” Navajo County Sheriff Kelly “KC” Clark said.

“This is a tragic loss for the family and friends of Senator Crandall. Chester was a good man and a strong voice for rural Arizona. I wish to express our deepest sympathy to his family. May God bless them at this time.”

Navajo County Board of Supervisors member David Tenney expressed his sympathy and love to the Crandall family.

“I have known Chet for more years than I can count. He has always been a good example of hard work, decency and fairness.

“His office, his phone and the gate to his ranch have always been open to friends and strangers alike, and I am so glad that I count him as one of my friends.

“I know that his family will be surrounded by the community in a loving, tender and appropriate manner, but there is no doubt that this tragic event leaves a great hole in our community.

“He has a great legacy in this area, and I am sure that we will all want to honor him in our own way. I trust that we will all do so with great respect and dignity.”

No announcements about services or other arrangements have been made at this time.

State Governor Jan Brewer said she was deeply saddened by his tragic death.

Brewer said he was a fifth-generation native of Arizona, an avid rancher, legislator and – above all – a gentleman with a tangible love for Arizona and those he served.

“Chester will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers – along with those of the entire state – are with Chester’s dear wife, Alice, and their family during this difficult time.

“In honor of Senator Crandell – and the service he gave to Arizona – I have ordered that flags be lowered to half-staff from sunrise, August 5, 2014 until sunset August 11, 2014.”

Crandell was born in Holbrook, Arizona, and raised in Heber. He was a Republican member of the Arizona Senate representing District 6 since January 14 last year. Crandell served consecutively in the Arizona State Legislature from January 10, 2011, until January 14, 2013, in the Arizona House of Representatives District 5 seat.

He was a graduate of the University of Arizona, with a degree in Agriculture Education, and a graduate of Northern Arizona University, with a Masters degree in Education Leadership.

He worked in the education field for 30 years. The last 10 years he was the superintendent of the Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT), where he created the partnership with Northland Pioneer College to provide educational services to NAVIT.

He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Alice. They have nine children and 36 grandchildren.

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