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Manteca police officer hailed as hero
Elness saved woman trapped in burning vehicle
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Homes for Heroes affiliate specialist Frank Orr of Compass Real Estate presents Manteca Police Officer Bryon Elness with the Hero of the Month Award for saving the life of a woman who was trapped in a burning vehicle. Also pictured is Homes for Heroes Community Outreach Coordinator Jennifer Hart - photo by Photo Contributed

Manteca Police Officer Bryon Elness was in the right place at the right time.
And he just happened to save somebody’s life as a result.
This past week, Elness was honored with the Homes for Heroes “Hero of the Month” award by Homes for Heroes affiliate Real Estate specialist Frank Orr in a special ceremony held at Manteca City Hall. Elness was presented with a framed plaque and a gift certificate to a local restaurant for helping to save the life of Gisela Aquila, who became trapped in her vehicle back in August as flames engulfed the engine compartment and threatened to consume the entire car.
“It is an honor to present this award and to thank Bryon Elness for his outstanding service,” said Homes for Heroes affiliate specialist Frank Orr. “Officer Bryon Elness was nominated and recognized as Hero of the Month for his continued and inspirational service to our community.”
Elness was responding to a call of a disturbance when he encountered Aquila, who had just left a local auto repair business after getting work done on her car before it suddenly shut off and she coasted to a stop near Elness’ patrol car.
When Aquila tried to exit the vehicle, she quickly learned that the fire in the engine compartment of her 2008 Honda Accord was preventing her from being able to unlock the doors, and she quickly began screaming and pounding on the glass to get the attention of the nearby officer.
Elness responded when he saw Aquila struggling, and after trying to open her door to get her free, smashed the passenger side front window and helped her escape the vehicle.
“I’m very grateful that he was there,” Aquila said of the incident. “I felt as though he was my guardian angel — he was there when I needed him to be there.
“He saw all of the flames coming out of my car by the grace of God and he came up and helped me get out before things got a lot worse.”
Homes for Heroes is a program that was started after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 as a way to honor local heroes for their sacrifices and their dedication to the communities that they serve. The organization is a nationwide community of affiliate real estate and lending specialists who provide easy ways for firefighters, law enforcement, military (active, reserves and veterans), healthcare workers, EMS and teachers to save significant money when they buy, sell or refinance a home with Homes for Heroes.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.