The 1-year-old daughter of a firefighter killed battling the Australia wildfires wore her father’s helmet as she stood by her father’s casket.
In a white dress, Charlotte O’Dwyer stood beside Andrew O’Dwyer’s casket as mourners grieved her father’s loss in a ceremony at Our Lady of Victories church in Horsley Park on Tuesday, Jan.7, according to 9 News.
The heartbreaking scene came just moments after 20-month-old Charlotte accepted the service medal which was posthumously awarded to her father by the Rural Fire Service following his death.
The 36-year-old Andrew, a 16-year veteran of the New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service, was one of two volunteer firefighters who died fighting the bush fires in Sydney on Dec. 19 after a tree fell on his firetruck and pushed it off the road.
The incident also killed Deputy Capt. Geoffrey Keaton, who was a father to his own 20-month-old child named Harvey, 9 News reported.
During the emotional funeral, Charlotte wandered up to the pulpit and touched her father’s casket, according to Australia’s 7 News. The little girl was also pictured giving his casket a kiss goodbye and laying under it during the ceremony.
Andrew is survived by Charlotte and his wife, Melissa, who accepted the service medal for Andrew from RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons during the funeral.
“Baby Charlotte, you need to know—your dad was a special man, a selfless man, and only left because he is a hero,” Fitzsimmons told the child, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Outside the church, a firetruck bearing Andrew’s name and hundreds of volunteers from the RFS lined the church parking lot. Maori members from the RFS greeted the hearse carrying Andrew’s coffin by performing an impromptu haka. The men stomped, chanted and slapped their legs as officials, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, looked on in salute.
Andrew’s funeral came five days after the service for 32-year-old Keaton. Keaton’s son, still sucking on a pacifier, received a medal for his father’s bravery, according to the Daily Mail.
David Littleproud, the country’s federal water minister, said that the deaths marked “a deeply sad day for the community, for the RFS (Rural Fire Service) and for their families.”
Since September, the devastating Australian wildfires burning across New South Wales and Victoria have claimed the lives of at least 25 people, destroyed 2,000 homes and burned through more than 11 million acres and killed at least half a billion animals.