Bobby Pepper’s death stirs calls for defibrillators on farms

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Peter SweeneyGeraldton Guardian
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Amy and Greg Teakle want defibrillators installed near farms.
Camera IconAmy and Greg Teakle want defibrillators installed near farms. Credit: Peter Sweeney/The Geraldton Guardian, Peter Sweeney

Not long after Bobby Pepper’s shock death last month from a suspected heart attack, Amy Teakle made a suggestion to her farming father-in-law Greg Teakle.

She said defibrillators were needed on or near farms — preferably Australia-wide, but Ms Teakle thought they should start the push in their backyard — the shire of Northampton.

Still stunned by the death of his friend — a popular former policeman, shearer and Aboriginal leader — Mr Teakle agreed.

He had waved to Mr Pepper, with whom he had shorn and worked in sheds for many years, on his way to work on the morning of his death, on October 31.

In the afternoon when he was told of Mr Pepper’s death, he thought of the shearing classes the pair had run for youngsters in August and September.

And his mind flashed back more than two decades, when another shearer died in front of him.

Now inspired by his energetic daughter-in-law, who arrived in Northampton a decade ago as a “19-year-old Pommy backpacker” and never left, Mr Teakle wants to put a stop to the sudden deaths of shearers — or at least give them a better chance of surviving a heart attack.

“It’s a tough and physical occupation — age doesn’t really matter,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s realistic to have defibrillators in every shearing shed as it’s only used once a year ... but we must have them much closer to farms.

“It would be great if every shearing contractor had one with him or her. It would be great if they were at spots within 10-15km of farms.”

Ms Teakle, married to Greg’s son Russell and the mother of two children, is a volunteer with St John Ambulance and the fire and rescue service in Northampton.

She was in the emergency services team which raced out to the farm where Mr Pepper was working when he collapsed.

“By the time we got there, it was too late, the other shearers and crew had done all they could,” she said. “Being in a country ambulance area with volunteers who have jobs and lives, a response time cannot be guaranteed.

“Minutes are critical.

“Early defibrillation is essential in saving lives.

“Defibs (defibrillators) are not dear, especially when we are talking lives. You can get a defib with a weatherproof box around it for less than $2500 ... two farmers in the district have bought them since Bobby died.

“Defibs could be at various places in the shire and people educated on where these are.

“People can also be encouraged to download the first respon-der app and complete first aid.”

Mr Teakle now only has fond memories of the mate he described as “a local who made it good because he worked hard and connected with people”.

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