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‘Tragic loss:’ Sen. Crandell praised for his leadership, pioneer spirit

Sen. Chester Crandell, R-Heber (Cronkite News Service photo)

Sen. Chester Crandell, R-Heber (Cronkite News Service photo)

Arizona Sen. Chester Crandell was found dead Monday by his family, who went searching for him after the senator failed to return from a horseback ride near Heber-Overgaard.

Crandell, 68, had gone out for a ride on a colt at approximately 10 a.m. Monday, according to a Navajo County Sheriff’s deputy. When he didn’t come back on time, family members went searching for him and found his body at about 2 p.m. along the route he’d chosen for the ride.

Family members reported he was dead when they found him, according to the deputy. The colt was also found in the area where Crandell’s body was discovered.

The White Mountain Independent first reported the death.  The newspaper was told by Navajo County Chief Deputy Jim Molesa that, while it appeared Crandell had been bucked off, no further comments could be made until the medical examiners finished their report.

“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 K.C. Clark said in a statement.  “This is a tragic loss for the family and friends of Senator Crandell. 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.”

Molesa said Tuesday that while Crandell suffered head injuries consistent with a fall off the horse, given Crandell’s age, medical examiners wanted to determine if perhaps another medical incident precipitated the fall.

Gov. Jan Brewer ordered flags lowered to half-mast from Aug. 5 until sunset on Aug. 11.  Crandell’s fellow lawmakers reacted in shock to the sudden passing of the well-regarded Republican legislator.

“No one worked harder at the Senate than Chester. He was here early every morning, responding to the concerns of his constituents. He was a man of integrity and high character,” said Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert. “This is a devastating loss to our community.”

First elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, Crandell was elected a senator in Legislative District 6 in 2012. He  served as vice chair of the Senate Education Committee and  chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee.

His previous experience as a superintendent of the Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology and a member of the Heber-Overgaard School District Governing Board lent credibility to his opinions on education issues, and he often advocated the surrender of federal lands in Arizona to state officials.

Crandell was frequently chosen by Biggs to act as chair during  the Committee of the Whole on the Senate floor, an opportunity for him to exhibit his rancher flair and wit.

“He was a leader in the tradition of Arizona’s pioneer spirit, serving with integrity, respect and a wry sense of humor,” said Senate Minority Leader Anna Tovar, D-Phoenix. “I fondly recall sharing stories of community and family with Chester and I know that he deeply loved both.”

Crandell is survived by his wife, Alice, nine children and 36 grandchildren.



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