Perris trucker a finalist in "Highway Hero" contest


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He's on the short list for what many consider the trucking industry's most prestigious award for heroism. Yet Ed Regener shrugs it off with this comment about heroes, "Hero? It's a word used way too much these days."

For the record, the 42-year-old Perris resident and Federal Express Freight driver has been named one of the four finalists for the 2006 North America Highway Hero of the Year for his actions that likely saved the lives of two men involved in a Nov. 4 accident near Phoenix. The award is sponsored by Goodyear Tire and Rubber.

Nearly four months after the early-morning crash on Interstate 10, Regener remembers battling smoke inhalation while trying desperately to remove injured people from burning vehicles before rescue personnel were on the scene.

"It was getting hotter, but I wasn't going to stand back and watch them burn to death. So, I said the heck with it and did everything I could to get them out," said Regener, an Indiana native who moved to California 12 years ago and has worked for FedEx for two years. "A lot of people would have done what I did. It was a chance to help two human beings."

Regener was 15 minutes from reaching his destination and unloading two 28-foot trailers carrying barrels of hazardous material, battery acid, when the accident occurred.

Regener said a westbound vehicle driven by one of the two men crossed the median and collided with his semi and a pickup with two occupants. All three vehicles caught fire.

"All five of us were taken to hospitals and a woman in the pickup died," Regener said. "My truck burned to the ground in just a few minutes. I felt like my lungs were on fire from all the smoke I inhaled, but was OK otherwise."

The other finalists are Elizabeth Pavlista, of Miami, Ariz., Richard Miner, of Phoenix, and Marlon Marum, of Burnsville, Minn.The winner will be announced March 22 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.

The winner will receive a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond, plaque and ring. Each of the other finalists will get a $5,000 U.S. Savings Bond and a plaque.

Regener said he and his wife, Patty, and children will attend the presentation.

Source: | Southern California News | News for Inland Southern California

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