Sunday, 29 May 2022

‘Wow, she wanted to meet us’ Princess Anne’s kindness praised by firefighter widow on tour

Princess Anne visits New South Wales Rural Fire Service

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The Princess Royal paid a visit to the NSW Rural Fire Service to speak with families of firefighters impacted during the country’s devastating bushfires. The visit came as part of Anne’s three-day royal tour, organised as part of the celebrations for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

On Sunday afternoon the 71-year-old met with the families of fallen volunteer firefighters Geoff Keaton and Andrew O’Dwyer, who were among 34 people killed in the bushfire crisis.

The two men were killed when their truck rolled off the road after hitting a fallen tree in Buxton, south of Sydney, just days before Christmas in December 2019.

During the meeting, which was organised by the Royal Family member, Anne offered her condolences to the firefighters’ families.

After the meeting, Melissa O’Dwyer, the widow of Andrew O’Dwyer, 35, said she was touched by the Princess’ interest.

She had discovered that Anne had wanted to talk with the families after following news of the bushfires at the time.

She said: “She’d been watching this from afar” and when she learned that Princess Anne had initiated the meeting, she said: “It was like, ‘Wow, she wants to meet us.”

She then added, referencing her husband and his fellow firefighter: “It is nice that they are not forgotten, and that people still remember them.”

Mrs O’Dwyer said that Princess Anne was well-informed, and was interested in how the two families had coped, and how and where they lived.

The meeting was scheduled to take place at a fire-truck themed memorial playground at Telopea Park, which was built in honour of the two men, who tragically left behind young children, but was moved inside due to the rain.

The two men had fought fires together and became fathers within two days of each other. Their children, Charlotte O’Dwyer and Harvey Keaton, both nearly four, also met the Princess on Sunday.

Anne also spoke with Geoff and Andrew’s colleagues from Buxton and Horsley Park brigades who have battled both bushfires and floods in the area over the past two years.

Around 30 volunteers from the brigades and RFS commissioner Rob Rogers and NSW Emergency Service and Resilience Minister Steph Cooke gathered to meet with the Queen’s daughter.

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After her visit, Anne then stopped off at the Sea Heritage Foundation in Waverton where she was greeted by Ellie McInnes and given a bunch of flowers by a young fan.

Anne touched down in Australia on Saturday and opened the Sydney Royal Easter Show as it celebrated its 200th anniversary.

The Princess Royal attended the show in her role as Patron of the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth.

Her trip marks the first visit to Australia made by a member of the Royal Family since Harry and Meghan Markle’s tour in 2018.

The Princess Royal is joined on the trip by her husband, Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence.

After leaving Australia, Princess Anne has engagements to undertake in Papua New Guinea.

She is expected to be greeted by PNG Governor-General, Sir Bob Dadae and meet Prime Minister James Marape before opening the National Cardiac Diagnostic Centre at the Port Moresby General Hospital and the National Ambulance Control Centre of the St. John Ambulance.

The Princess will also lay a wreath at the Bomana War Cemetery, where 3,284 Commonwealth soldiers are buried, on behalf of the Queen.

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