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Cantara earns heroism honor

To receive state's annual Firefighter of the Year Award

Lt. Jason Cantara. (click for larger version)
December 02, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — For those who are truly committed to public safety, there is no off switch — even while on vacation.

Southbridge Fire Department Lt. Jason Cantara will be saluted for an outstanding act of heroism with the Massachusetts Annual Firefighter of the Year Award to be given at Faneuil Hall in Boston in a Dec. 21 ceremony to be attended by Gov. Deval Patrick and state Fire Marshal Stephen Coan.

"[Southbridge Fire Department] Chief Richard Ciesla entered my name for the award without me knowing," said Cantara, who had only heard about winning the award 24-hours prior. "I went to ceremony five or six years ago when John Matthew and John Perretti, who are still on the Fire Department with me, received life-saving awards at the ceremony. I'm still shocked and very humbled that they are giving me the award. I'm very taken aback."

The event in which Cantara was involved, earning him the award, took place on Feb. 12, 2010 on Route 75 in Pasco County, Florida, while he was traveling on vacation with his wife Kelly, sons Nicholas and Jonathan and sister-in-law Sherry. A small vehicle quickly changed lanes, causing a U-Haul moving truck traveling in front of Cantara's car to overturn onto its left side and quickly burst into flames, as it fell into an embankment and into a swamp.

Three men were trapped inside. Lt. Cantara, along with other drivers that pulled over, fought through fire and waist-high swamp water to bring two of the men to safety.

The third man was unable to be removed from the fiery truck was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the vehicle that caused the accident did not stop to aid the victims of the crash.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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