Andrew Dwyer's daughter, Charlotte, was described as her father’s greatest achievement and the apple of his eye.
Firefighters risk their lives to save others. While they are trained to handle dangerous situations, when fighting with a volatile force of nature, like fire, they enter the field knowing anything can happen.
The bushfire in Australia had a devastating effect on the precious wildlife, forest landscape, and natural resources, apart from being fatal to many human lives. Firefighters were at the forefront doing their best to save as many animals and living creatures as possible. Unfortunately, twenty-five of these heroes lost their lives in the line of service. Among them was a 16-year veteran of the New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, who died when a tree fell on the firetruck he was in along with Deputy Captain Geoffrey Keaton, 32, reported CNN. They had volunteered as part of Sydney's Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade.
At the funeral, O’Dwyer's daughter Charlotte refused to leave the side of her father's coffin. She wore his helmet and lingered around the coffin throughout the service. The scene was heartbreaking to witness for all those present and the millions who saw the pictures online. Charlotte was presented with a service medal that was pinned onto her white dress on behalf of her father. She was the little ray of sunshine in the otherwise emotional service and even managed to bring a smile or two to the mourners present there. Perhaps, unconsciously she knew that was the last couple of hours she had with her dad for the rest of her life, so she stayed close to her father's casket, never really leaving the spot. At one point, she even lay under it, as she ate from a bag of chips, in all her childhood innocence. Charlotte was described as her father’s greatest achievement and the apple of his eye reported The Sun.
The funeral service was attended by O'Dwyer's wife Melissa, the couple’s other two children, their family, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and hundreds of people from the community. At the end of the service, in a heartbreaking moment, Charlotte kissed her father's coffin as a final goodbye as her mother watched from behind tearfully. The casket was draped in a bright red NSW Rural Fire Service flag and carried by friends. Hundreds of volunteers from the RFS stood outside in a guard of honor, putting their hands on their hearts, as he was carried out, reported PEOPLE. Maori members from the RFS performed an impromptu haka in honor of their colleague.
"Baby Charlotte, you need to know—your dad was a special man, a selfless man, and only left because he is a hero," RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said in his eulogy as his voice broke, according to The Sunday Morning Herald. "A man after my own heart, he loved to grab the drip torch and set fire to the landscape." He added, "I thank you, Melissa and Charlotte, for sharing Andrew with us. There are no words that can adequately describe our sorrow, our respect, our regard, for the loss of Andrew ... in that tragic accident." Fitzsimmons went on to present a commendation for extraordinary service to Melissa.
O'Dwyer's father, Errol, expressed that saying goodbye to his son was the hardest thing he had ever done. He described his son as someone with a free spirit, who lived in the moment. "Word can't describe the sorrow and loss I'm feeling. Although my heart is broken you have made me very proud," he said. Horsley Park brigade captain Darren Nation broke down as he spoke of his "best mate" and his loyalty and said, "The love for the brigade was almost as thick as the blood that runs through his veins." Three other firefighters from the Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade were in the backseat and survived with non-life threatening injuries.
The NSW RFS set up a bank account for Andrew O’Dwyer and Geoffrey Keaton in lieu of flowers and asked for people to donate to the account. The funds will be evenly split between their spouses. Keaton is also survived by his wife and a young son, Harvey. He received a posthumous medal of Commendation for Bravery and Service to honor his father's bravery, reported CNN.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Dean Lewins-Pool