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Son of Australian firefighter awarded medal at funeral

02 January, 2020

By SJA Jafri

CANBERRA/ SYDNEY: The son of a volunteer who died fighting Australian bushfires has been presented with his father’s medal for bravery at his funeral.

Harvey Keaton, aged 19 months, wore a uniform and sucked on his dummy as he received his father’s posthumous medal at Thursday’s funeral near Sydney.

Dozens of firefighters formed a guard of honour to salute Keaton’s coffin.

He and colleague Andrew O’Dwyer died on 19 December en route to a blaze, when their fire truck hit a fallen tree.

O’Dwyer, also father to a toddler, will be buried next week.

The bravery award was presented to young Harvey Keaton by New South Wales Fire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also attended the funeral.

The prime minister said he was there to “remember and give thanks for the life and service of Geoff Keaton”.

In addition to Keaton and O’Dwyer, another firefighter died on Monday when high winds overturned his truck, killing one and injuring two others.

Since September, a total 18 people have died as a result of the fires – seven of them in New South Wales this week alone. Others are missing.

Thousands of firefighters have been deployed every day for months, battling enormous fires that have yet to be brought under control. The vast majority are unpaid volunteers.

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