Good mate lost
DEREK Barker was a generous, likeable bloke who loved the great outdoors. When Derek needed them most, his friends were there for him.
Tragically, he died after a heart attack while training with his outrigger canoe paddling mates on the Tweed River.
Derek's death occurred in extraordinary circumstances. He was struck down on the river's eastern bank, directly opposite The Tweed Hospital.
As Derek lay unconscious on the sand and with no pulse, his mates went to work, trying to revive him with cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Not sure how long they would have to wait for medical help, those paddlers who didn't know CPR were instructed by those who did, ready to take over if their mates tired.
They decided not to risk paddling Derek across the river towards the hospital. The canoes were narrow and the bank on the other side was steep and rocky. The group decided to try to bring Derek back to life where he lay.
A young couple in a small fishing boat appeared with a mobile phone and the ambulance service was called.
As the minutes ticked by, a four-wheel-drive ambulance from Kingscliff sped along the beach from Fingal, while some paddlers set out in a canoe for the Jack Evans Boat Harbour to pick up two ambulance officers and paddle them back to help Derek.
After about 40 minutes, including efforts by the ambulance team using a defibrillator, Derek's pulse was revived and he was taken by ambulance to the hospital via Fingal, but he remained unconscious.
At the hospital, medical staff also worked frantically to try to revive him.
Derek's heart attack was on Tuesday, April 19. On Saturday, April 23, after doctors concluded that even if he did regain consciousness he would have vegetative, permanent brain damage, his life support system was disconnected.
Derek, a structural engineer who lived near the boat harbour, died on Monday, April 25, Anzac Day. He was 57.
His partner Elaine Ewen wants to thank Derek's mates for their inspirational efforts to try to bring him back to life.
"They were so dedicated, the way they all worked together in such difficult and distressing circumstances," Elaine said.
"By getting Derek back to the hospital, they gave us a chance to say goodbye to him.
"He was the kindest, most decent, likeable man.
"He was so unassuming, always giving and doing things for people without any fuss.
"He never asked for anything in return."
Last week, Derek's outrigger mates competed in a 12km race on the Sunshine Coast, wearing blue armbands (his favourite colour) and carrying Dereek's canoe paddle.
Elaine said Derek was always active and he died doing something he loved. Both his parents also died young from heart complaints, she said.
"He was a bloke who never sat still. We'd climb Mt Warning and then he was ready to go out walking again. We loved walking around the Pt Danger headland."
This week, Derek's mates and family plan to hold a service celebrating his life at the Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club, before paddling his ashes out to sea and scattering them off Pt Danger, in accordance with Derek's wishes.
Derek's family are hoping the young couple in the small boat who loaned their mobile phone will come forward and identify them- selves, so they can be thanked, Elaine said.