57-year-old Thomas Burnoski, who's been employed by the San Francisco Rec and Parks Department since 2006, has been identified as the man responsible for the September 5 death of 35-year-old Christine Svanemyr, who was lying in Holly Park with her infant and dog at the time. Svanemyr was run over by a Rec & Parks vehicle that Friday afternoon and the incident was witnessed by a number of people in the area. Her child and dog were uninjured. Burnoski, who was booked on suspicion of felony hit and run but still has not been charged with anything, says he had no idea he had hit a person.
Burnoski, via his attorney Robert Waggener, claims that he was heading to nearby St. Mary's Park, which is a Friday afternoon gathering spot for Rec & Parks workers. He says that he veered off the pedestrian path onto the grass in order to avoid hitting an object, and that when he got to St. Mary's Park he informed his supervisor that "he thought he had struck something back at Holly Park," as the Chron reports. He further claims that he had no idea it was a woman and that he had killed a person until after he was in police custody.
He put out a statement saying that he and his family "wish to express our profound sorrow to the family of Christine Svanemyr and her community of friends."
My actions caused the death of this person and there is nothing I can do to bring her back. I am absolutely devastated by this tragic accident. Mere words can never convey what I and my family feel, knowing that a child will grow up without her mother, and that [her husband] faces parenting alone, in shock, bewilderment and immeasurable grief.
Disturbingly, Burnoski lost his own 20-year-old daughter to a car accident just five months ago.
It is against parks regulations for gardeners to drive over grass or pedestrian paths without a spotter outside the vehicle.
The district attorney is still considering charges against Burnoski.