A quick-thinking police officer mobilised a team of volunteers and borrowed a tour company boat to try and rescue a US state senator and his brother-in-law who capsized while kayaking in Rarotonga yesterday.
Republican state senator from South Dakota Craig Tieszen, 68 drowned while trying to save his brother-in-law Brent Moline, 61, who also died outside the reef in Avana Harbour.
Police spokesperson Trevor Pitt said authorities received a call from a tourist resort in Muri Beach asking for help after two of their guests "had gone over the reef kayaking and had capsized."
Prior to police organising a search and rescue team, an officer who was on the beach gathered a team of volunteers together to help the men.
They took an outboard motorboat out from the beach area that belonged to one of the lagoon tour companies who made it available for the search.
"One of the men that had gone into the sea was retrieved from the reef area and was brought back to the beach and while they were bringing him back to the beach area they were trying to revive him," Mr Pitt told 1 NEWS.
Police then quickly came to the rescue and located the other man.
"Unfortunately this is a terrible tragedy that has happened," he said.
"They had come here to be a part of a family celebration.
"The family are now having to deal with the terrible loss of two party members."