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Deceased Australian firefighter's daughter wears dad's helmet, refuses to leave his side at funeral

Deceased Australian firefighter's daughter wears dad's helmet, refuses to leave his side at funeral

The little girl's father was one of two volunteer firefighters who died fighting the deadly bushfires southwest of Sydney on December 19.

There wasn't a dry eye in the house at the late Andrew O'Dwyer's funeral on Tuesday as little Charlotte O'Dwyer said her final goodbye to her firefighter father. The 20-month-old painted a heartbreaking picture at the service with a newly presented service medal pinned to her white dress and her dad's helmet on her head. Young Charlotte's father was one of two volunteer firefighters who died fighting the deadly bushfires southwest of Sydney on December 19 and photos of the little girl refusing to leave her dad's side during the emotional service have now gone viral on social media, driving home the severity of the truly devastating situation Australia has been facing for months.

Charlotte O'Dwyer, the young daughter of Rural Fire Service volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer wears her father's helmet after being presented with her father's service medal by RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons during the funeral for NSW RFS volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer at Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church on January 7, 2020, in Horsley Park, Sydney. (Photo by Dean Lewins-Pool/Getty Images)

 

According to news.com.au, the 36-year-old O'Dwyer was killed last month when a fallen tree caused the truck he was in to roll off the road. The incident also killed 32-year-old Geoffrey Keaton—dad to 20-month-old Harvey who was born just two days apart from Charlotte.



 

 

Speaking to the publication following the death of the two firefighters, RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said, "They work together, socialize together, they’re very interactive together. Their respective partners and wives shared a lot in common with their camaraderie and connection with the brigade. Geoff has a young son Harvey, and Andrew has a young daughter Charlotte, and both of those children were born two days apart back in May so they’re 19 months of age, which just terrible."



 

 



 

 

On Tuesday, Fitzsimmons pinned the service medal, that was posthumously awarded to O'Dwyer for his bravery, on young Charlotte, reports Daily Mail. Addressing the fallen firefighter's daughter and wife Melissa in a moving speech during the service, he said, "Charlotte should know her father was a selfless and special man, who only left because he was a hero."

Charlotte O'Dwyer, the young daughter of Rural Fire Service volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer, with Andrew's wife Melissa receives her father's service medal from RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons during the funeral for NSW RFS volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer at Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church on January 7, 2020, in Horsley Park, Sydney. (Photo by Dean Lewins-Pool/Getty Images)

 

Charlotte refused to leave her father's side during the service held at Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church in Horsley Park, bringing a much-needed smile to the face of mourners at one point as she lay on the floor under her father's casket while eating from a bag of chips.

Charlotte O'Dwyer, the young daughter of Rural Fire Service volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer, lays under her fathers casket during the funeral for NSW RFS volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer at Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church on January 7, 2020 in Horsley Park, Sydney. (Photo by Dean Lewins-Pool/Getty Images)

 

The service was attended by New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who in an emotional press conference following the devastating accident, said, "They were bravely defending their communities with an unmatched spirit and a dedication that will forever set them apart amongst our most courageous Australians. Their sacrifice and service saving lives and saving properties will be forever remembered."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison with his wife Jenny attend the funeral service of NSW RFS volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer at Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church on January 7, 2020, in Horsley Park, Sydney. (Photo by Dean Lewins-Pool/Getty Images)

 

Outside the service, Charlotte's mother, who carried the child in her arms, lowered the little girl down to her father's casket to give him a final kiss goodbye. Although her eyes welled with tears, the grieving widow put on a brave face as she walked beside her father-in-law Errol while he led the procession out of the church grounds.

Charlotte O'Dwyer, the young daughter of Rural Fire Service volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer, kisses her father's casket during the funeral for NSW RFS volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer at Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church on January 7, 2020, in Horsley Park, Sydney. (Photo by Dean Lewins-Pool/Getty Images)

 

Maori members of the RFS performed an impromptu haka in tribute to their fallen comrade, who was described by his dad as "a free spirit who lived in the present and whose greatest achievement was his daughter."

Charlotte O'Dwyer, the young daughter of Rural Fire Service volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer stands in front of her fathers casket during the funeral for NSW RFS volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer at Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church on January 7, 2020 in Horsley Park, Sydney. (Photo by Dean Lewins-Pool/Getty Images)

 

A member of the Horsley Park RFS brigade for more than a decade, O'Dwyer was given a guard of honor as his coffin left the requiem mass and in a lasting tribute to him, Horsley Park RFS fire truck will forever have a special message reading "In memory of Andrew O’Dwyer" on the passenger side door.



 

 

O'Dwyer's emotional funeral on Tuesday came five days after the touching service for Keaton during which his son Harvey was also presented with his father’s service medal. In the days after his death, the heroic firefighter's wife Jess remembered him as "a super proud dad who did anything to help his family and friends." Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, she said, "He would drive me mad giving up stuff at home to help people... I would give anything for that now. I just want him to be remembered as the hero he was."



 

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