Firefighter gave in death as she did in life
IN LIFE Jennifer Hankinson was a dedicated emergency services volunteer, who contributed so much to her community.
As well as being member of the Rural Fire Service Alstonville/Wollongbar Brigade, Ms Hankinson, she was a valued member of the Northern Rivers Aviation Support Brigade and an active member of the SES Ballina Unit, Critical Incident Support Services and peer support.
Ms Hankinson passed away on Sunday at Casino Air Base when along with her RFS crew mates to undertake some routine maintenance when, she suffered a significant, unexpected and irreversible brain bleed and collapsed.
In death she was selfless to end, five people have hope and a new lease on life thanks to the donation of her organs.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons posted a tribute to Ms Hankinson on Facebook, where he said their view was unanimous, that even in death Jenny was still giving to benefit others and she would have wanted nothing else.
Commissioner Fitzsimmons also paid tribute to her crew mates and the emergency medical staff who attended.
"Despite the extraordinary and very best efforts of her fellow crew, Anthony, Mark and Lyndsay, along with Ambulance Service Paramedics and hospital teams, Jenny passed away yesterday in hospital," he said.
"Yesterday I joined Superintendent Michael Brett, our Senior Chaplains and others in visiting Jenny's family at Lismore hospital and spending a little time with some of our team at the Northern Rivers FCC and the Alstonville/Wollongbar Station."
Mr Fitzsimmons said whilst the grief, loss and sadness was obvious, Ms Hankinson's daughter Laurel and her family were just so grateful and appreciative of the fact that Jenny was with her RFS mates and not alone at the time.
"Laurel and her family also came to the brigade station last night (just remarkable really given the circumstances but so special and valuable for all affected), thanked the members for all they've done over the years by being such a huge part of Jenny's life, shared and heard a few stories, and reiterated the family's appreciation to Anthony, Mark and Lyndsay, and all involved that were with here at the time of her collapse," he said.
"Whilst Laurel and the family knew the RFS was a huge part of Jenny's life, I don't think they realized just how active she was and how much everyone relied on Jenny and loved spending time with her, no matter the task, job or time of day."
Mr Fitzsimmons said her fellow RFS members described her as a truly special and unique person who had a wonderful sense of humour, an unwavering devotion to service and caring for others both within the brigade and broader community, and a stamina and endurance matched by nobody else.
"She simply could not sit around and rest and had to be busy doing something, invariably for others," he said.
"It was an understandably emotional night mixed with tears, a few laughs and wonderful stories of time spent with Jen (and) the one thing that was abundantly clear was just how much Jen will be missed."
Mr Fitzsimmons said unexpected events like this always remind us of the fragility of life and why we all need to truly appreciate and value the time we have with family, loved ones and friends.
"We will continue to provide support to Jenny's family and the Northern Rivers/Far North Coast teams," he said.
"I have no doubt you will join in extending thoughts and prayers to all those affected by the sudden and unexpected loss of Jenny."
RFS Superintendent Michael Brett, said Ms Hankinson's loss will be felt across the two brigades she belonged to as well as the wider community.
"Jenny was a very big contributor to our organisation, she took a great interest in the younger RFS members and took them under her wing," he said.
"I'm sure there are lots of younger firefighters now who can say they are stronger people thanks to her support."
NSW Minister for Emergency Services, Troy Grant said volunteers are the everyday heroes who put their own lives on the line to keep the rest of us safe.
"They leave their families and jobs for the greater good, confronting the dangers that threaten our communities, and undertaking training to better prepare for when disaster does strike," he said.
"On behalf of the NSW Government, I extend our deepest condolences to Ms Hankinson's family, friends and fellow Rural Fire Service members, in particular the Northern Rivers Aviation Support Brigade and the Alstonville/Wollongbar Brigade, of which she was a member."