Even after his death following a tragic accident last year, Jake Gibbons is still helping others.
The 31-year-old had his organs donated to five people after he fell and was critically injured while abseiling with a friend at The Leap, near Mackay on October 2.
A keen hiker, computer whiz and budding historian, Jake is remembered by his proud parents Tania and Kevin Gibbons as a passionate gentle giant who loved a laugh.
“It makes us incredibly proud that Jake donated his organs to five men who will hopefully get to live long and healthy lives, see their children grow up or even have families of their own thanks to our son,” Kevin said.
“Jake was a kind and caring man who was willing to give his time to care for others whether it was his family, his mates or anyone else who just needed some compassion in life. We just feel privileged to have had him for almost 32 years. He was a remarkable human being.”
Jake had been passionate about trekking for about four years and was in training to walk the
Kokoda Track. He had also planned a trip to Russia with his Russian foster sister.
On that fateful day last year, Jake and his friend had trekked up The Leap, about 2.30pm. His friend had taken his abseiling equipment with him so “Jake could get back into the sport which he hadn’t done for quite some time,” Kevin said.
“His mate set Jake up for the descent over the rock face and explained what Jake had to do. As Jake descended and was going down, his mate lost sight of him and that was when something went wrong. We were told Jake dropped 10 to 15 metres hitting his head causing massive head injuries,” he said.
RACQ CQ Rescue was tasked to assist and lowered a Rescue Crew Officer and Critical Care Paramedic to the scene, a short five-minute flight from base at Mackay. Due to the rugged terrain, Jake had to be stretchered about 100 metres to the top of the mountain by emergency personnel, while the helicopter circled overhead.
Once stabilised enough for transport, Jake was winched up into the helicopter where he was quickly transferred to Mackay Base Hospital.
Jake arrived at Mackay Base Hospital at 6.50pm and was later transferred to Townsville hospital. He died two days later surrounded by his family.
Despite their ordeal and the loss of their beloved son, the Gibbons family is full of praise for rescue and emergency services crew who regularly make a difference to the outcomes of injured people and to their family’s lives.
“We think having the rescue chopper and the very skilled crew available that day gave Jake the very best chance of survival,” Kevin said.
“It was so important for us to thank the people who risked their lives trying to save Jake’s life by getting him back to the hospital as quickly as possible.”
Jake’s family met with RACQ CQ Rescue pilot Kevin Berry, aircrewman Shane Bargh and rescue crewman Arno Schoonwinkel to thank them for their efforts that day.
“These guys show us how much the CQ Rescue team cares for their patient and the patient’s family. We are so thankful to the whole CQ Rescue crew for their care and compassion for our Jake during this time.”
“When I asked them why they left one of their men behind that day they told us it would have taken an extra five minutes to get him back up into the helicopter and that five minutes could mean the difference between life and death for their patient.
Jake, who had a close relationship with his brother Shane Gibbons, worked as a machine operator at Daunia Mine in the Bowen Basin. After the tragic accident, the Gibbons family and Jake’s colleagues at the mine along with WorkPac Pty Ltd donated funds to CQ Rescue in memory of Jake.
“Tania, Shane and I decided to donate the funds to the RACQ CQ Rescue chopper in appreciation for their work in getting Jake to hospital,” he said.
“We wanted to help keep CQ Rescue in the air so everyone in this area has the same chance of survival whenever they are sick or injured and away from local hospitals.”
Kevin has been working in the mining industry since 1978 and remembers the first CQ Rescue helicopter landing at Saraji Mine back in the late 1990s to raise awareness about funding.
“I can say most employees were donors back then and I still donate to CQ Rescue in my current job at Newlands Mine working for Glencore,” he said.
Eight months on from the loss of their beloved son, the courage and determination of the Gibbons family to honour Jake’s memory and help so many others in this community is inspiring.
“Jake was always a person who gave to worthwhile charities so we urge all individuals in the district to support CQ Rescue as it’s just such a vital service.
“We will always be so proud of our late son and brother and it’s what Jake would want.”