Friday, March 27, 2009

neighbor honored

Bob Ashburn, 51, at Diamond Valley RV Park

By Guy McCarthy

SAN JACINTO - A man who went into a burning trailer and pulled his neighbor out alive but still in flames will be recognized as "Citizen of the Year" at an American Legion banquet tomorrow in San Jacinto.

"The award is for heroism and bravery above the call of duty," said American Legion spokesman Rod Parr, 51, who is also administrative supervisor for the Hemet Pass Division of American Medical Response.

The award is to be presented Saturday during the annual Law & Order Awards Banquet at American Legion Post 848, 312 E. Main St., Parr said.

The fire was two weeks ago today in San Jacinto.

Bob Ashburn, 51, said he's honored but he doesn't think of himself as a hero.

"I was just doing what had to be done," Ashburn said today. "It's humbling to receive the award. I'm speechless."

The man he rescued, Tom Edwin Hieber, 61, underwent more surgery today at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton and remained stabilized in critical condition, his daughter said.

"He had his third skin graft today," said Lori Linden, 43, of Hemet. "He's still on a ventilator."

Hieber suffered second- and third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body, including his back, upper torso, neck and head, Linden said. He also suffered badly burned lungs from inhaling hot fumes and smoke.

"He was able to blink today," Linden said. "He still can't speak. It's day fourteen, but he's hanging in there."

The fire was reported at 6:11 p.m. March 13 at Diamond Valley RV Park in the 300 block of North State Street, Cal Fire-Riverside County officials said.

"If it hadn't been for Bob, Tom would be dead," said Jerry Castorena, 55, maintenance manager at the RV park.

Ashburn, an unemployed iron and electrical worker with construction experience, is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Ashburn said today he was returning from Camp Pendleton, where he filled out several job applications.

The awards banquet starts at 5 p.m. Saturday. Dinner seating is sold out but standing room will be available, American Legion officials said. The event is open to the public.


Tom Hieber and daughter Lori Linden, November 2005.

For previous reports click here and here.

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