RFS volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer's daughter brings a smile to the faces of mourners

As tears welled in the eyes of the hundreds packed into the church, ready to burst at any moment, the bravery and blissful innocence of a young girl brought a smile to their faces.

Charlotte O'Dwyer is too young to understand that she'll never see her father Andrew again, let alone that he won't be there on her first day of school, or her last day of school, or able to walk her down the aisle on her day.

She will grow up without a father, but people everywhere will tell her that her daddy was a hero.

Mr O'Dwyer, 36, and his colleague Geoffrey Keaton were killed on December 19 when the truck they were in rolled and hit a tree while fighting a bushfire at Buxton, south of Sydney. 

As mourners heard about the heroic efforts of Mr O'Dwyer that fateful night, little Charlotte donned her father's helmet and accepted a RFS service medal which he had been posthumously awarded.

Moments later she lay on the floor under her father's coffin and ate a bag of chips, bringing a much needed smile to the faces of mourners. 

Her innocence, on full display against a backdrop of grief at the front of the church, is exactly what her father and thousands of other firefighters right across Australia have been fighting so hard to protect over recent months. 

Volunteer firefighter Andrew O'Dwyer (pictured) has been farewelled in an emotional service on Tuesday

His young daughter Charlotte (pictured) accepted a Rural Fire Service service medal on his behalf, before donning his helmet

Volunteer firefighter Andrew O'Dwyer (left) has been farewelled in an emotional service on Tuesday, with his young daughter Charlotte (pictured) accepting a Rural Fire Service service medal on his behalf, before donning his helmet

With his helmet on her head and service medal pinned to her white dress, Charlotte O'Dwyer walked up to her father's coffin and said goodbye

With his helmet on her head and service medal pinned to her white dress, Charlotte O'Dwyer walked up to her father's coffin and said goodbye

RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons (left) pins a service medal on the dress of young Charlotte, as her mother Melissa and grandfather Errol O'Dwyer watch on

RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons (left) pins a service medal on the dress of young Charlotte, as her mother Melissa and grandfather Errol O'Dwyer watch on

Mr O'Dwyer's wife Melissa holds their daughter Charlotte in their arms as they touch the hearse carrying his coffin, while his father Errol watches on

Mr O'Dwyer's wife Melissa holds their daughter Charlotte in their arms as they touch the hearse carrying his coffin, while his father Errol watches on

At one point during the service Mr O'Dwyer's young daughter lay on the floor under his coffin eating from a bag of chips, with her innocence bringing a smile to the face of the mourners packed into the church

At one point during the service Mr O'Dwyer's young daughter lay on the floor under his coffin eating from a bag of chips, with her innocence bringing a smile to the face of the mourners packed into the church

Standing up on the church pew,  Charlotte O'Dwyer points to the sky before muttering something in the direction of her mum

Standing up on the church pew,  Charlotte O'Dwyer points to the sky before muttering something in the direction of her mum

Mr Fitzsimmons gives young Charlotte a hug after presenting her with the service medal posthumously awarded to her father

Mr Fitzsimmons gives young Charlotte a hug after presenting her with the service medal posthumously awarded to her father

The young girl then donned her father's firefighting helmet as Mr Fitzsimmons handed certificates and an RFS flag to his wife Melissa

The young girl then donned her father's firefighting helmet as Mr Fitzsimmons handed certificates and an RFS flag to his wife Melissa

An experienced volunteer firefighter, he had been a member of the Horsley Park RFS for more than a decade.  

His fellow brigade volunteer Geoffrey Keaton - who like Mr O'Dwyer was a father-of-one - also died in the crash.

RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons gave a moving speech during the funeral service, addressing his daughter and wife. 

'Charlotte should know her father was a selfless and special man, who only left because he was a hero,' he told the packed church. 

After stepping from the alter he walked to the front row where young Charlotte was waiting.

Moments earlier she had stood up on the church pew, pointed to the sky and muttered something to her mother.  

With her hair in pigtails, the toddler stood still as Mr Fitzsimmons pinned the RFS service medal to her white dress.

She then donned his helmet, before shining a smile in the direction of her tearful mother Melissa and grandfather, Errol.

At the conclusion of the service her mother picked up her up in her arms and walked out of the church.

When her mother understandably briefly shed tears, Charlotte tried to comfort her. And when her mother stopped the young girl smiled again.  

Mr O'Dwyer's father Errol (pictured) said in his eulogy that farewelling his son was the hardest thing he had ever had to do

Mr O'Dwyer's father Errol (pictured) said in his eulogy that farewelling

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