Daughter Of Volunteer Firefighter Dons Dad's Helmet At His Funeral
Members of the NSW Rural Fire Service have formed a guard of honour to farewell Andrew O'Dwyer, a Sydney firefighter killed while protecting communities from a bushfire last month.
Friends and family gathered at the funeral in Sydney's west on Tuesday morning to pay tribute to the hero firefighter who died alongside fellow crewmember and deputy captain Geoffrey Keaton.
The pair were on duty at the Green Wattle Creek fire on December 19, when their truck rolled, killing both men and injuring three others from their Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade, who also in the truck.
At his funeral, O'Dwyer, who joined the RFS in 2003, was remembered as a proud service member whose greatest achievement was his young daughter.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons choked up as he addressed O'Dwyer's young daughter Charlotte.
Charlotte should know her father was a selfless and special man, who only left because he was a hero, the commissioner told the congregation.
Wearing a white dress with her hair in pigtails, the toddler at one stage touched her father's casket before she wandered up to the pulpit during the service and later played with her father's helmet.
During the service, Charlotte received a service medal from the Commissioner on her father's behalf and was later photographed saying goodbye to his casket outside.
Errol O'Dwyer said farewelling his son was the hardest thing he ever had to, describing him as a free spirit who lived in the present.
Following the emotional service, O'Dwyer's casket was carried out of the church enveloped in a Rural Fire Service flag.
Photos shared by the RFS showed dozens of the organisation's members lining the street outside in their uniforms, some placing their hands over their hearts, to honour O'Dwyer.
Alongside them was a Horsley Park brigade truck, emblazoned with the words "in memory of Andrew O'Dwyer."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, state Emergency Services Minister David Elliott and federal Labor MP Chris Bowen were among the mourners at the funeral.
Geoffrey Keaton was farewelled at a separate service last week, where his young son received a medal in his father's honour.
Days after their deaths, Keaton and O'Dwyer's partners said they were "still in denial".
“It is always in the back of your mind but the boys have always got each other’s back,” Melissa O'Dwyer told The Daily Telegraph at the time.
She said the crew at Horsley Park Fire Station would serve as aunties and uncles for the women's two children, Harvey Keaton and Charlotte O'Dwyer, who were born just days apart.
“They can hear the stories about their dads and how mighty they have been.”
In a moving Facebook post, Jess Hayes said she was also struggling to come to terms with her loss.
"I still don't understand but this I do know, you were such an amazing, loving and stubborn man," she wrote.
"Your passion and love for family, friends and the service was clear to everyone and you are going to leave a gigantic hole in everyone's heart.
"Harvey and I love you so much... you will never be forgotten and Harvey will always know his daddy is a hero."
Partners Of Fallen Firefighters 'Still In Denial' As Heartbreaking Detail Of Their Deaths Is Revealed
The partners of Andrew O'Dwyer, 36, and Geoff Keaton, 32, who died fighting the Green Wattle Creek fire on Thursday night say their husbands were 'heroes' but they haven't come to terms with their loss.
In a post on their Facebook page, The Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade said a public memorial service was also being planned for the two fallen firefighters in the coming weeks.
The RFS has set up a dedicated fund for people to donate to support the families of the two firefighters. Details can be found here.