Donora woman dies in fire

120913-donoraBy Rick Bruni Jr – Valley Independent

A Donora woman’s body was found by firefighters battling an early Sunday morning fire in her home, but authorities were still determining cause of death and how the blaze started.

After responding to the call around 3 a.m., firefighters found Gelinda “Gigi” Giles, 52, in the second floor of her residence at 1323 Fayette St. Giles was a longtime bus driver for the Ringgold School District.

Washington County Coroner Tim Warco said in a release that the cause of her death was pending. Other details were not released.

State police fire marshal Sean Jones had not determined cause of the fire as of press time Sunday night. Donora police Superintendent James Brice said there was no sign of foul play and Donora fire Chief Patsy Vince did not return two phone messages left Sunday.

Donora Patrolman William Dennison suffered a minor shoulder injury while attempting to enter the residence.

The first level of Giles’ house was completely charred. A burnt couch stood alone Sunday in the front yard of the property.

Next-door neighbor Belinda Kuskie said she awoke around 3 a.m. Sunday, went downstairs and smelled smoke. Kuskie said she looked outside and saw white smoke pouring out Giles’ rooftop.

Kuskie said she called 911 to report the fire, then rushed over and pounded on Giles’ door.

“I didn’t hear anybody and I couldn’t get in, so I went to the next-door neighbor’s house and I banged on their doors to see if they could help,” Kuskie said. “When I came from the neighbor’s, that’s when I saw the fire shooting out the kitchen window.”

Giles lived alone, she said.

“This is very sad, very sad,” she said. “I couldn’t get her. I tried.”

Giles made headlines in 2010, when she tried navigating snow-and-ice-covered roads in an attempt to get her pregnant daughter, Questa, to McGee Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Acting on the advice of a 911 operator, they pulled their vehicle into the Blue Flame restaurant parking lot along state Route 51 in Jefferson Hills.

With the help of borough police, the baby girl was born on the front seat of Gelinda Giles’ car.

Ringgold Superintendent Dr. Karen Polkabla said Giles will be missed.

“I’d say she’s been driving for us for at least 20 years. She was a wonderful person and she did keep a tightly-run bus,” Polkabla said. “Gigi was a special, special person.”

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