Station Officer John Macnamara in 2013 when he retired after 39 years and 10 months of serving at the Bilinga-Coolangatta Fire Station with Gary Paxton, Brian Peters and Steve Madonna.
Station Officer John Macnamara in 2013 when he retired after 39 years and 10 months of serving at the Bilinga-Coolangatta Fire Station with Gary Paxton, Brian Peters and Steve Madonna.

Incredible tribute planned after tragic surf death

BACON and eggs at Greenmount won't be the same without John Macnamara as friends plan one of the biggest paddle-outs seen on the Gold Coast to remember the veteran firefighter who devoted thousands of hours and dollars to sick kids.

Hundreds of people are mourning the loss of a man who spent over 40 years as a Gold Coast firefighter after he died yesterday in the surf at Greenmount Beach.

His family and friends have been "absolutely broken" as they are left without "the most loveable, honest and happiest guy."

John Macnamara friends and family hug as his body is placed into the hearse at Greenmount Beach. Photo: Tweed Daily News
John Macnamara friends and family hug as his body is placed into the hearse at Greenmount Beach. Photo: Tweed Daily News

John Macnamara, 70, known as "Johny Mac", was a passionate surfer and long-serving officer at the Bilinga-Coolangatta Fire Station.

He passed away doing what he loved most - having an early-morning surf at one of his favourite surfing spots with his mates.

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He had been surfing at Greenmount beach for decades before the sun would come up with a group of friends called the "Dawn Patrol".

John Macnamara, 70, paddle boarding. Photo: Trevor Elm
John Macnamara, 70, paddle boarding. Photo: Trevor Elm

It is believed he had a heart attack in the water, and hit his head on his paddle board, or a submerged rock, just before 5am.

Mr Macnamara was pulled from the surf by one of his friends and attempts to revive him failed.

His wife and one of his daughters were lying on the sand with his body under an umbrella for hours while a hearse waited to take him away.

His friend Lori Pinniger, known as "Curly", stood close by.

He had spent almost every day with Mr Macnamara for the past 50 years.

SEARCH FOR MYSTERY HERO WHO SAVED SURFER'S LIFE

A surfer died while paddleboard surfing off Snapper Rocks at Greenmount on the Gold Coast. Picture: Emily Halloran
A surfer died while paddleboard surfing off Snapper Rocks at Greenmount on the Gold Coast. Picture: Emily Halloran

"It was the saddest thing I've seen in my whole life," Mr Pinniger said.

"It's such an incredible loss for his family, and who for everyone who knew him."

The pair met close to 45 years ago when Mr Macnamara moved from Sydney and became a firefighter at the Bilinga-Coolangatta fire station in 1973.

Since then, they have been inseparable.

"We became friends straight away as there wasn't many surfing firefighters back then, so we stuck together," he said.

"We've done everything together since. We have surfed all around the Coast. We did surfing trips overseas.

"We had wives and kids come along around the same time. Once the kids were old enough we went out together and bought cars for them.

"We've spent almost every day together for 45 years."

Mr Macnamara retired a couple of years ago and only just celebrated his 70th birthday.

About 100 of Mr Macnamara's friends and family gathered yesterday and clapped and cheered in tribute to his life as his body was taken away in the hearse.

The "Dawn Patrol" is a group of local surfers who meet at the so-called "knowledge table" at Greenmount every day before hitting the surf.

Once a month, the group would fry up a big breakfast of bacon and eggs, donated from local cafes, and charge $5 for anyone to anyone to enjoy.

Station Officer John Macnamara at the Bilinga-Coolangatta Fire Station after 39 years and 10 months of service.
Station Officer John Macnamara at the Bilinga-Coolangatta Fire Station after 39 years and 10 months of service.

Over the past couple of years, Mr Macnamara and his mates have donated over $60,000 to charities Kids With Cancer and CanTeen.

Another close friend, Bill Scholer, said Mr Macnamara's family, including his wife, two children, and 11 grandchildren were "broken" by the news.

"He was the most loveable, honest and happiest guys," he said.

"He's had a wonderful life and it's very sad to see it come to an end."

The committee of the Gold Coast Surf World surf museum in Currumbin held a minute's silence yesterday to honour Mr Macnamara.

Queensland's Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford offered his condolences to Mr Macnamara's family and friends.

It is understood a paddle-out is being planned in the next few days.

"It will be the biggest paddle-out Coolangatta has ever had," Mr Scholer said.



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