Toddler receives honour for firefighter dad killed in accident

New South Wales' Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons pinning a medal for bravery on 19-month-old Harvey Keaton's shirt during his father Geoffrey Keaton's funeral in Sydney on Thursday.
New South Wales' Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons pinning a medal for bravery on 19-month-old Harvey Keaton's shirt during his father Geoffrey Keaton's funeral in Sydney on Thursday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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

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

Harvey's father, 32-year-old Mr 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 this week in what was described by the authorities as a "fire tornado".

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 showed Harvey being held by his mother, Mr Keaton's fiancee Jess Hayes, as they looked at a portrait of the firefighter atop his coffin.

New South Wales (NSW) state's RSF Commissioner Shane 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 fires, also attended the funeral.

The NSW RFS said on Twitter it had "farewelled one of our own".

 

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

Fierce fires have flared around Australia for several weeks, prompting mass evacuations, devastating towns and destroying homes.

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

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2020, with the headline 'Toddler receives honour for firefighter dad killed in accident'. Print Edition | Subscribe