herald

Wednesday 22 January 2020

Hero firefighter's toddler son awarded medal at his funeral

Nineteen-month-old Harvey Keaton has the honour pinned to his shirt during the funeral of his father Geoffrey
Nineteen-month-old Harvey Keaton has the honour pinned to his shirt during the funeral of his father Geoffrey

The toddler son of a volunteer firefighter killed battling wildfires in Australia received one of the service's highest honours on behalf of his father during an emotional funeral yesterday.

Nineteen-month-old Harvey Keaton stood quietly, sucking on a dummy, as the fire service commissioner pinned a posthumous commendation for bravery and service to his neatly pressed, oversized Rural Fire Services (RFS) shirt.

Harvey's father, 32-year-old Geoffrey Keaton, was one of three volunteer firefighters killed in recent weeks.

Mr Keaton and a colleague died last month when a burnt tree fell in the path of their fire truck, causing it to roll.

The third firefighter died earlier this week in what was described by authorities as a "fire tornado".

Saluted

Dozens of firefighters saluted and formed a guard of honour as Mr Keaton's hearse drove into a Sydney cemetery, according to pictures of the funeral posted online by the fire service.

A mug placed on the coffin had a picture of father and son stick figures and the inscription: "Daddy I love you to the moon and back!"

Another photograph from the funeral service showed Harvey being held by his mother, Mr Keaton's fiancee Jess Hayes, as they looked at a portrait of the firefighter placed on top of his coffin.

New South Wales RSF commissioner Craig Fitzsimmons, who has been giving daily briefings on the crisis, knelt down to pin the medal on Harvey's shirt.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has faced some criticism for his response to the growing crisis, also attended.

The New South Wales RFS said on Twitter it had "farewelled one of our own".

Eight people have been killed by wildfires in the eastern states of New South Wales and Victoria since Monday, and 18 are still missing.

The fires have also raised questions about Australia's readiness to deal with climate change.

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