Heart-wrenching moment firefighter's posthumous medal presented to his son

Little Harvey didn’t stop sucking his dummy.

The toddler son of Geoffrey Keaton, dressed in a child-size Rural Fire Service uniform for the funeral of his RFS volunteer father, stood still as he received a medal from RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons honouring his dad.

The pacifier stayed firmly in place as the fire commissioner kneeled in front of him.

Hundreds of mourners- including Mr Keaton’s fiancee, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife Jenny, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW Corrections and Acting Emergency Services Minister Anthony Roberts - attended the funeral in Minchinbury on Thursday morning.

Men and women in distinctive yellow RFS uniforms spilled from the chapel, standing as they watched a television screen which relayed the service as it happened.

Mr Keaton, who was awarded a posthumous Commendation for Bravery and Service, was one of two firefighters who lost their lives fighting the Green Wattle Creek blaze in south-west Sydney on December 19.

The other man was Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, whose funeral will be held next week. The men were killed when a tree fell into the path of their tanker, causing it to roll.

Mr Keaton’s fiancee Jess Hayes and young Harvey were part of a long procession of fire trucks that drove to the service, and an RFS honour guard was also formed.

The young fire volunteer was a member of the 68-strong Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade. He had previously been decorated for 10 years of RFS service.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Roberts said the service was “incredibly emotional and touching” and Mr Keaton’s “Anzac larrikin spirit” shone through.

“Much loved, at times a larrikin but totally dedicated to the RFS and in particular his family,” Mr Roberts said.

“The family obviously prides itself in a very humble way for their service to the community through the Rural Fire Service.”


He said the state government “would provide” for Mr Keaton’s family, and defended Emergency Services Minister David Elliott, who has been criticised for being on holiday in Europe as the fire disaster unfolds.

“David’s been on the line for about 112 days before he took his family away for a holiday that he’d already postponed a number of times. He’s had the death of his father this year and of his wife’s father. It’s been a very difficult year for him.”

As the funeral finished and the mourners dispersed, groups of firefighters climbed into the fire trucks they had come in.

They still had work to do.


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