Six community defibrillators to be installed along Denmark coast in loving tribute to Perth father

Press Release
  • Denmark will gain six new public defibrillators in memory of beloved Fremantle father of two Andy Rutherford, 
  • The life-saving first aid equipment was made possible by a community fundraising initiative in Andy’s honour after he died of cardiac arrest in Denmark in 2023, 
  • This contribution takes the number of St John WA’s (SJWA) registered 24/7 publicly accessible defibrillators across WA to 3000.  

Generous community donations have funded six new life-saving defibrillators to be installed along the Denmark coast in memory of beloved Perth father Andy Rutherford. 

Andy, 48, died of cardiac arrest after collapsing on a beach at Denmark’s Elephant Rocks in April 2023.

Despite the best efforts of his first aid-trained mates who performed CPR, the use of a community defibrillator and the speedy response of volunteers from the SJWA Denmark Sub Centre, he couldn’t be saved.

In tribute to Andy, South Beach Boardies owner Kirsten Lopez created specially designed boardshorts with help from Andy’s wife Renae and two sons, Maxton and Fraser, and donated profits from the sales to increasing SJWA’s defibrillator network in Denmark. 

A new defibrillator has been unveiled with a plaque in tribute to Andy Rutherford at Lights Beach in Denmark.

Bursting with colour, the ‘Djiti-djitis for Defibrillators’ boardies combined Andy’s love of Djiti-djitis (‘Willy Wagtails’ in Noongar) and brightly-coloured surf shorts.

Andy’s family reunited with the SJWA volunteers who were by his side in his final moments on June 24, to celebrate the installation of the first defibrillators and unveil a tribute plaque in his memory at Lights Beach.

In an emotional meeting, Maxton and Fraser thanked the first responders who fought to save their dad.

It marks a major milestone for SJWA, with 3000 registered 24/7 publicly accessible defibrillators now available to the West Australian community. More than 340 of these are located in the Great Southern. 

They form the SJWA Community First Responder Network, established in 2011, a free service which aims to get defibrillators to cardiac arrest victims in the vital minutes before an ambulance arrives. 

Andy Rutherford’s wife Renae and sons Maxton and Fraser with the St John WA Denmark Sub Centre team who fought to save his life.

With assistance from the Shire of Denmark, two defibrillators have already been installed at Lights Beach and Madfish Bay, with four more earmarked for popular locations along the coast.

The life-saving first aid devices are strategically located alongside Beach Emergency Number signs, a unique coding system used by emergency services to identify beach access points and improve response times. 

Renae extended her gratitude to Kirsten and her partner Tim for spearheading the initiative.

“We can’t thank South Beach Boardies enough for the gift that all of this entails, and creating such a beautiful way to honour Andy,” Renae said. 

“The boys love seeing people wearing the Djiti-Djiti boardies, especially people we don’t know.

South Beach Boardies owner Kirsten Lopez with the Djiti-djitis for Defibrillators boardies designed for Andy.

“I believe it has also really helped them navigate such a traumatic part of their life; being involved in something so incredibly generous and positive has been really valuable.

“It is important for me to once again thank the amazing SJWA Denmark volunteers and special thanks to everyone who has purchased these gorgeous shorts so we can install new defibrillators in regional WA.”

SJWA Chief Preventative Officer Megan O’Donnell said growing the Community First Responder Network relied on the generosity of community members.

“Currently only one in 10 people survive a cardiac arrest and we need everyone’s help to increase this number,” she said. 

“Our data shows that someone is three times more likely to survive a cardiac arrest with bystander CPR and if a community Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is used before an ambulance arrives.

Renae Rutherford with sons Fraser, 7. and Maxton, 11 and St John WA Denmark volunteer and close family friend Lesley Murphy.

“We want to make AEDs as frequent and visible as possible across our State and we need everyone’s help to do that. 

“Even if it is a few dollars – every donation adds up to saving lives.”

SJWA Social Sustainability Manager Angelina Robins said this project was an inspiring example of the community rallying behind a beautiful family.

“Without generous donations from the public, including Andy’s family and friends, these Denmark defibrillators and their potential to save lives, would not exist,” she said. 

“We hope this community-led fundraising initiative is the first of many that will help strengthen the Community First Responder Network across regional WA.”

Locations of registered defibrillators are listed here and on the St John First Responder app.

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