Two Young Fathers Identified As Volunteer Firefighters Killed In NSW Bushfire
The NSW RFS has identified the two firefighters killed while battling blazes in south-west Sydney as a pair of young fathers.
The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers were in a truck that was travelling in a convoy near Buxton --a small village in the Macarthur Region -- on Thursday afternoon when their truck hit a tree and rolled off the road.
Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O'Dwyer, 36, have both been identified as the two firefighters who died in the accident, the RFS said in a statement.
Keaton joined the service in 2006 and was the Deputy Captain of the Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade. He had previously worked with the Plumpton Brigade.
O'Dwyer joined the service in 2003 and was a member of the Horsley Park Brigade.
The RFS shared a heartbreaking picture of each of them, both posing with their young children.
Fellow firefighters have joined the community at Horsley Park RFS headquarters, to remember their fallen colleagues.
The elmets of the two firefighters have been laid next to a remembrance plaque at the headquarters, with flags lowered to half-mast.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons visited Horsley Park RFS on Friday.
The Horsley Park RFS shared an image of the plaque engraved with a poem to remember those who have lost their lives.
"When you are lonely and sick of heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds
Miss me, but let me go,
Forever in our hearts, always in our memories," the final lines of the poem read.
Fundraising efforts have been started by members of the community. You can donate to the GoFundMe page here.
Three other crew members were also injured when the firetruck struck the tree and rolled over.
A 36-year-old man and a 56-year-old man suffered face and airway burns and will be airlifted for treatment. Another female crew member was treated for smoke inhalation and minor burns.
The fatal accident occurred at the end of an exhausting day during which it's feared some 40 homes were lost in Buxton, Balmoral, Bargo and surrounding areas as the Green Wattle Creek blaze tore through the Wollondilly Shire.
NSW Rural Fire Service Association President Brian McDonough said the RFS family is "in mourning".
“Our hearts are breaking for the families, friends, and fellow crew members of Deputy Captain Geoffrey Keaton and Firefighter Andrew O’Dwyer from Horsley Park Brigade," he said in a statement.
“Our members know that what we do can be dangerous, but nothing can take away the pain we all feel when facing such terrible loss."
RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said the brigade was a "tight-knit group" and the deaths will "will impact significantly".
"At the end of the day, everybody feels for these people and their families ... people have got to try and put that aside and keep going," he said.
"The immediate people around that crew, we will make arrangements for them to be excused from the fire ground if that's what they wish, but often firefighters like to just get back to doing what they do ... it's a coping mechanism as well."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a statement on Friday, sending his condolences to the families of the firefighters.
"They were bravely defending their communities with an unmatched spirit and a dedication that will forever set them apart amongst our most courageous Australians," he said.
"Their sacrifice and service saving lives and saving properties will be forever remembered. I wish those injured all the best in their recovery.
"Our hearts go out to their families, friends and colleagues who have been working tirelessly beside them, particularly during this Christmas period."
NSW Police said it will continue inquiries into the cause of the crash.
"Specialist officers from the Crash Investigation Unit have commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash," it said in a statement.