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Woman credits Manteca Police officer Elness with saving her life
Manteca Police Officer Bryon Elness helped rescue Gisela Aquila from a burning vehicle on Tuesday after the fire shorted out the electrical system and prevented her from being to get out on her own.

Gisela Aquila didn’t know Bryon Elness from any other Manteca Police officer before Tuesday morning. 

But she firmly believes that he was her guardian angel that was there when she absolutely needed him – rescuing her from her vehicle as it erupted in flames as a failed electrical system rendered her unable to unlock the doors and escape on her own. 

According to Aquila, she was just leaving a local car repair business on Tuesday, Aug. 7, at around 11 a.m. where she had some minor maintenance done to her vehicle when she noticed that the entire electrical system suddenly stopped working. She made a quick right turn near Library Park and brought her vehicle to a stop on Pierce Avenue just up the street from where Elness was investigating an altercation. 

And that’s she noticed the smoke coming in through her air conditioning vents and underneath her steering wheel.

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. She quickly began screaming and pounding on the glass to get the attention of the nearby officer.

Elness responded when he saw Aquila struggling. After trying to open her door to get her free, he smashed the passenger side front window and helped her escape the vehicle. 

“I’m very grateful that he was there,” Aquila said. “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.”

The Manteca Fire Department responded to the call and extinguished the flame before it consumed the rest of the car, but not before the engine compartment was completely melted as a result of the blaze – rendering the car a total loss. 

Aquila said that she was also blown away by the professional demeanor of the Manteca Fire Department who helped her document the incident for insurance purposes, and admitted that while her attitude towards police officers wasn’t always positive, she has a newfound respect for the men and women that put on the uniform every day. 

“Truthfully I never really cared for the demeanor of police officers before this happened,” she said. “But I’m grateful for what they do, and that he was there for me.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.