With his helmet on her head and his medal pinned to her dress, Charlotte O’Dwyer touched her father’s coffin and said goodbye.
The daughter of volunteer firefighter Andrew O’Dwyer had just moments earlier accepted the service medal which was posthumously awarded to him by the Rural Fire Service on Tuesday, following his death just before Christmas.
Charlotte’s bravery was enough to bring a tear to the eye of RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, who during his eulogy just a few minutes earlier had told the little girl her daddy was a ‘hero’.
Mr O’Dwyer, 36, was killed when the truck he was in rolled and hit a tree while fighting a bushfire at Buxton, south of Sydney, on December 19.
The brigade’s deputy captain Geoffrey Keaton – who like Mr O’Dwyer was a father-of-one – also died in the crash.
A member of the Horsley Park RFS brigade for more than a decade, Mr O’Dwyer was given a guard of honour as his coffin left the requiem mass at Our Lady of Victories.
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Volunteer firefighter Andrew O’Dwyer (left) has been farewelled in an emotional service on Tuesday, with his young daughter Charlotte (pictured) accepting a Rural Fire Service service medal on his behalf, before donning his helmet
With his helmet on her head and service medal pinned to her white dress, Charlotte O’Dwyer walked up to her father’s coffin and said goodbye
RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons (left) pins a service medal on the dress of young Charlotte, as her mother Melissa and grandfather Errol O’Dwyer watch on
Mr O’Dwyer’s wife Melissa holds their daughter Charlotte in their arms as they touch the hearse carrying his coffin, while his father Errol watches on
At one point, Mr O’Dwyer’s young daughter lay on the floor under his coffin eating from a bag of chips, with her innocence bringing a smile to the face of the mourners packed into the church
Standing on the church pew with her mother’s hands holding her, Charlotte O’Dwyer points up to the sky
In a moving speech during the service, RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons addressed Mr O’Dwyer’s daughter and wife Melissa.
‘Charlotte should know her father was a selfless and special man, who only left because he was a hero,’ he told the packed church.
Charlotte should know her father was a selfless and special man, who only left because he was a hero…
RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons on Andrew O’Dwyer
Wearing a white dress and 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.
Lying on the floor under his casket she ate from a bag of chips, bringing a much needed smile to the face of mourners.
She then had the RFS service medal pinned on her by Mr Fitzsimmons, before he handed a flag to Mr O’Dwyer’s wife and his father Errol.
Outside the service, Melissa O’Dwyer carried carried Charlotte in her arms before lowering her down so she could give her hero father’s coffin a kiss goodbye.
Around her eyes welled with tears, but she remained blissfully brave.
Mr Fitzsimmons gives young Charlotte a hug after presenting her with the service medal posthumously awarded to her father
The young girl then donned her father’s firefighting helmet as Mr Fitzsimmons handed certificates and an RFS flag to his wife Melissa
Mr O’Dwyer’s father Errol (pictured) said in his eulogy that farewelling his son was the hardest thing he had ever had to do
Hundreds of friends, family and fellow RFS volunteers packed out the catholic church on Tuesday morning
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW emergency services minister David Elliott and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian were all in attendance
Blissfully brave in the face of tragedy, the young girl’s actions brought a smile to the face of her mother and RFS members as they walked Mr O’Dwyer’s coffin out of the church
Just as they had a week earlier for Mr Keaton, hundreds of RFS volunteers put their hands on their hearts and provided a guard of honour as Mr O’Dwyer coffin was carried from the church.
Mr O’Dwyer’s father Errol – who led the coffin out of the church alongside his granddaughter and daughter-in-law – said farewelling his son was the hardest thing he had ever had to do.
He described his son as a free spirit who lived in the present and whose greatest achievement was his daughter.
As the procession made its out of the church grounds, Maori members of the RFS performed an impromptu haka in tribute to their fallen colleague.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian both attended the service.
The father-of-one was farewelled at a requiem mass on Tuesday, with his father Errol leading the procession out of Our Lady of Victories church
Mrs O’Dwyer and her daughter Charlotte (front) were joined by members of the Horsley Park RFS in leading the procession out of the church grounds
Mr O’Dwyer’s father Errol (left), his wife Melissa (far right) and daughter Charlotte (right) walk out of Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church following the service
Melissa O’Dwyer breaks down in tears outside her husband’s funeral (left), before being comforted by the RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons (right)
Outside the service, Melissa O’Dwyer carried carried Charlotte in her arms before lowering her down so she could give her hero father’s coffin a kiss goodbye. Around her, eyes welled with tears.
In a moving tribute to their fallen colleague, hundreds of fellow RFS volunteers formed a guard of honour as Mr O’Dwyer was carried from the church
Mr O’Dwyer, 36, was remembered as a ‘hero’ by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons (Pictured are RFS volunteers and members at the funeral service for Mr O’Dwyer on Tuesday)
In a lasting tribute, Horsley Park RFS firetrucks will now have ‘in memory of Andrew O’Dwyer’ written on the passenger door
Maori members of the Rural Fire Service perform a Haka during the funeral for their fellow volunteer Andrew O’Dwyer
The stirring performance paid tribute to the 36-year-old who had been a much-loved member of the Horsely Park brigade for more than a decade
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife Jenny (pictured) were in attendance at the service, as was the New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian
Tears flow as Mr Morrison hugs Horsley Park RFS captain Darren Nation after the emotional service for long-serving member Mr O’Dwyer
The 36-year-old was described as a ‘hero’ by the prime minister in the days following his death.
‘They were bravely defending their communities with an unmatched spirit and a dedication that will forever set them apart amongst our most courageous Australians,’ Mr Morrison said in a statement.
‘Their sacrifice and service saving lives and saving properties will be forever remembered. I wish those injured all the best in their recovery.’
In a lasting tribute to him, a Horsley Park RFS firetruck will forever have ‘in memory of Andrew O’Dwyer’ written on the passenger side door.
Mr O’Dwyer’s funeral comes after the touching farewell for his fallen colleague Mr Keaton on January 2.
In what has become a lasting image from the bushfire disaster, RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons awarded Mr Keaton’s son with his father’s service medal.
Mr Keaton had joined the Horsley Park RFS in 2006 and quickly rose to the role of the brigade’s deputy captain.
In the days after his death, Mr Keaton’s wife Jess described him as ‘a super proud dad who did anything to help his family and friends’.
Geoffrey Keaton (left) was also farewelled by hundreds of fellow RFS volunteers at a moving service on January 2 (right)
Mr O’Dwyer’s funeral comes less than a week after a touching farewell for his fallen colleague Geoffrey Keaton, who died next to him on December 19
RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons pins Mr Keaton’s service medal on his young son, a moment that has become a lasting image of the bushfire disaster
A message on the Horsley Park RFS board on December 20, the day after the tragedy, reads: ‘Rest in peace Andrew and Geoff’
‘He would drive me mad giving up stuff at home to help people… I would give anything for that now,’ she told The Daily Telegraph.
‘I just want him to be remembered as the hero he was.’
Hundreds of bunches of flowers left outside the Horsley Park fire station created a makeshift memorial in the days that followed the tragic deaths of Mr O’Dwyer and Mr Keaton.
Discussions are planned for a permanent memorial to be erected for the two fallen fathers, and firefighters.