John Patrick KEARNEY






On the 18th of January 1914, Constable John Patrick Kearney drowned in a boating accident whilst attempting to save the life of another, Joseph Green. They were both passengers on the motor boat Martles which capsized during a day trip on the Brisbane River near the Bremmer River Junction, Booval. There were 16 people on board. The boat had hit a submerged object which caused it to tip and capsize. A number of passengers and crew were able to swim for safety to the shore which was about 30 to 40 metres away, whilst others were able to make it to the boat. Joseph Green, his brother Harry and Constable Kearney had been sitting on the front of the boat when it capsized. Harry had made it back to the up turned boat. Joseph could not swim and Harry observed that Kearney had rescued his brother and was holding him by his arm. Constable Kearney was an athletic man and a good swimmer. Constable Kearney had rescued Joe Green and prevented him from drowning. He then swum with Green towards the side of the river, a distance of about 30 to 40 metres, but found it impossible to get to the bank due to thick weeds in the water. He then swam back towards the boat with Green. A witness state that he observed Constable Kearney treading water holding Green close to the boat for a period of time. Another witness observed Kearney holding Green and continuing trying to swim. He then saw him let go of Green and they both sunk under the water and drowned. Their bodies were later recovered. One other person also drowned in the incident. An interview with Mr Summerville (Solicitor) a passenger on the boat and a witness of the rescue , reported in the Queensland Times Monday, January 19, 1914 of Constable Kearney “…and all who were eye-witness’ to the accident no doubt felt that Const. Kearney had the spirit for a guardian of the peace the desire to preserve human life even at the sacrifice of his own”….. “There is not the slightest doubt that Kearney lost his life trying to save Green.” Constable Kearney’s death was widely reported in newspaper articles and the fact that he left a young wife and five children behind. A community committee was formed which included benevolent societies of the time. It was widely accepted that he saved the life of Green and did so in the execution of his duty. A committee making representations on behalf of Constable Kearneys family to the Governement made the following points: 1. Constable Kearney was a Government servant. 2. He lost his life in carrying out what he believed was his duty, the protection of the lives of others. Constable John Kearney was buried at the Toowong Semetery, Brisbane on the 20th January, 1914.

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National Police Memorial Australia

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