South Dakota representative dies in drowning accident

PENNINGTON COUNTY UPDATE: According to the Cook Islands Police Department Police Media Adviser Trev Pitt, Representative Craig Tieszen and Brent Moline died while kayaking at the reef off Muri Beach.

"The tide was high at the time, and the ocean was quite rough. By contrast, the lagoon itself was very calm, flat. Kayaking over the reef is dangerous. That particular area of the reef is a concentrated source of wave energy (breakers) and tidal activity for the Muri lagoon," Pitt said in an email to KSFY.

The Police Service was alerted shortly before 11 a.m. by the hotel reception that their guests were kayaking over the reef and had capsized.

"Within 15-20 minutes, a tour boat was at the scene (on the lagoon side) with a Police Officer and three volunteers, conducting a search," Pitt said.

Tieszen was eventually recovered. He was brought to shore across the lagoon and a number of people worked solidly to try and revive him on the beach. He was not responsive.

Around midday, Tieszen was transported to hospital.

"The other man, Brent Moline, 61, was recovered by the Police Search and Rescue team, which was in the ocean aboard a zodiac conducting a search. He was taken to a nearby harbour around the ocean-side," Pitt said in the email.

Both men were pronounced dead shortly before 1 p.m.


Representative Craig Tieszen died Wednesday in a drowning accident in the Cook Islands where he was attending a family wedding. The Cook Islands are in the South Pacific, just 3,000 miles south of Hawaii. His brother-in-law, Brent Moline, also died in the accident.

Tieszen spent 32 years in law enforcement eventually serving as police chief for the Rapid City Police Department. After retiring from law enforcement, he was voted in as a state senator where he served from 2009 to 2016. He was currently serving in his first term as state representative for District 34 in Pennington County.

Governor Dennis Daugaard ordered all flags to fly at half staff on the day of his funeral, which has yet to be determined.

“Craig Tieszen was a good man and a dedicated public servant, and his loss is very sad,” said Gov. Dennis Daugaard. “Craig Tieszen spent his life serving the public. He was a thoughtful and conscientious legislator, and a leader on criminal justice issues. More importantly, he was a true gentleman who was respected by all who knew him. Linda and I offer our deepest sympathies to the Tieszen and Moline families during this difficult time.”

Chief Matt Burns with the Sioux Falls Police Department tweeted out Thursday that he and the state of South Dakota will miss Tieszen.