A volunteer firefighter who died when his truck rolled during a freak “fire tornado” has been remembered as a compassionate and hard-working man who adored his family.
Samuel McPaul was battling the Green Valley blaze near the NSW-Victoria border on December 30 when the rare weather event flipped the truck he was travelling in.
Today he was farewelled at the Holbrook Sports Stadium, just eight days before his 29th birthday, with his pregnant wife sitting quietly in the front row.
“When Sam entered a room, his contagious smile would instantly lift the spirits of people on its receiving end and his deep, loud, laugh was truly infectious,” childhood friend Rebecca Hargreaves told the packed room.
Ms Hargreaves described his wife Megan – who he met at university – as his soulmate, and said his face would light up when he talked about her.
“The day he married Meg was the most magical day we have witnessed,” she said.
“It is something those who attended will never forget.”
Mr McPaul was also over the moon about becoming a father in May, Ms Hargreaves said.
“The day before Sam was tragically taken from us, he and Meg shared ultrasound photos and stories about how the baby must be just like him, as bub has long lanky legs and was stretching out with its feet up relaxing, and he said: ‘Yep, that’s my kid alright’.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliot and RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons were all in attendance.
Earlier in the service, Senior Chaplain Ian Spall described Mr McPaul as “a wonderful young man, a beautiful young man”, and a credit to his mother Chris.
“No parent wants to attend the funeral of their child, it is against the order of things, it doesn’t make sense to us and it doesn’t add up, and it’s deeply uncomfortable,” Mr Spall said.