Amidst the devastation left by the massive brushfires in Australia, three volunteer firefighters are among those who have passed away.
The NSW Rural Fire Service confirmed that 28-year-old Samuel McPaul, 32-year-old Geoffrey Keaton, and 36-year-old Andrew O’Dwyer passed away in December. According to People, Keaton and O’Dwyer died after a fallen tree caused their truck to roll off the road and overturn.
Families Mourn the Lives of Three Australian Firefighters
During his funeral on January 2, Keaton’s son, Harvey, was presented with a posthumous medal to honor his bravery. The little boy stood calmly as the medal was pinned to his white collard shirt.
O’Dwyer was also survived by a wife and a 20-month-old daughter, Charlotte, who was photographed wearing her father’s helmet throughout his memorial. She was also given a posthumous medal to honor his bravery. Both Keaton and O’Dwyer were described as best friends.
The Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison said in a statement following their passings, “I express my sincere condolences and sympathies to the families of the firefighters who have so tragically been killed overnight.”
“They were bravely defending their communities with an unmatched spirit and a dedication that will forever set them apart amongst our most courageous Australians. Their sacrifice and service saving lives and saving properties will be forever remembered.”
McPaul was involved in a similar accident days after Keaton and O’Dwyer’s when his truck “was involved in a rollover caused by extreme winds associated with the fire.” As the RFS reported, McPaul also left behind a wife who is pregnant.
McPaul and his wife are expecting their first child together. She is due in May, People reports. The RFS said of McPaul:
“Samuel was a young man with his whole future ahead of him… The young couple were in the midst of preparations to welcome their baby and Megan is now facing parenthood without Samuel. This is another confronting reality of the ever-present dangers faced by our firefighters, who give so much to protect property and lives, and our collective hearts are breaking.”
Since their tragic deaths, the RFS “has created a dedicated bank account to collect donations.” Those donations can be made through the RFS website. The money will be distributed evenly amongst the grieving families.
According to The Guardian, there have been a total of 23 deaths so far. Six people are still missing.