Charlotte O’Dwyer, the daughter of deceased Australian firefighter Andrew O’Dwyer, wore her father’s helmet during his funeral, and the touching albeit heartbreaking photos from the event have gone viral, People Magazine reports.
Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, was a volunteer firefighter who died fighting a serious blaze not far from Sydney. O’Dwyer was killed on December 19, when a tree fell and pushed his and his colleagues’ truck off the road. O’Dwyer’s colleague, 32-year-old Geoffrey Keaton, was also killed. Keaton was father to a child who was born only a few days apart from Charlotte.
At O’Dwyer’s funeral, his 20-month-old daughter wore her father’s helmet and refused to take it off. What’s more, she refused to leave her dad’s side during the entirety of the funeral.
Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons delivered a eulogy and adorned the little girl with her father’s medal.
“Charlotte should know her father was a selfless and special man, who only left because he was a hero,” he told the attendees. The medal could be seen on Charlotte’s white dress.
Charlotte brought smiles to the crowd by sitting under her dad’s coffin — which was draped with the Errol RFS flag, a replica of which was given to O’Dwyer’s widow — while eating chips. However, when the time came for Charlotte to kiss her father’s coffin goodbye, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
After the service, hundreds of firefighters stood in formation in an honor guard, hands over their hearts, as O’Dwyer was taken to his final resting place. Members of the RFS who have Maori ancestry performed a haka, a ceremonial Maori dance, as the coffin passed by.
The Horsley Park RFS will continue to honor O’Dwyer’s memory. A firetruck will be named in his honor and it will be emblazoned with the message, “In memory of Andrew O’Dwyer.”
The wildfires in Australia are the worst in decades. At least 25 people have died in the fires, and over 11 million acres have burned, claiming homes, businesses, and at least one entire town. In an environmental tragedy, at least half a billion wild animals, including kangaroos and koalas, are believed to have died in the fires. Nearly 3,000 firefighters are on-hand to help battle the blazes, which are expected to continue burning for months to come.
According to CNN, police have accused at least two dozen people of deliberately setting some of the wildfires currently ravaging the country.