Nearly a month after a young mother died after being run over by a San Francisco Recreation and Parks vehicle while sunbathing at a Bernal Heights park with her baby daughter and dog, the community will hold a vigil to demand action to prevent similar tragedies.
Concerned Bernal Heights residents will hold the vigil at 5 p.m. Thursday at Holly Park, where Christine Svanemyr, 35, was killed the afternoon of Sept. 5.
Svanemyr was lying in the grass with her 11-month-old daughter Isa and the family dog Ponyo when the accident happened. The baby and the dog were not injured.
Police said Svanemyr was hit by city parks employee Thomas Burnoski, 57, a San Francisco resident. Burnoski drove off afterward in his green city truck, but was arrested by police after they found him nearby a short time later.
Burnoski, a recreation and parks employee since 2006, claims he didn’t know he had struck Svanemyr until police told him.
The district attorney’s office has not yet filed any charges against Burnoski, and he was released from jail on bail.
He remains on unpaid administrative leave, a department spokeswoman said.
Burnoski’s lawyer has said that Burnoski had been driving on an asphalt path at the park before straying off course onto the grass, where he unknowingly struck Svanemyr.
Svanemyr suffered major head and chest injuries and was taken to a hospital, where she died.
The mother was an ordained Zen monk and worked at the San Francisco-based life coach training company New Ventures West. Her husband, Vegar, also works at the company.
The Bernal Heights community was shocked by the death and raised nearly $73,000 for her family through an online fundraising website.
Community members are joining forces again by planning the vigil at the park, located at Highland Avenue and Holly Park Circle. San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, a representative from the San Francisco Police Department and other city officials are scheduled to attend, organizer and Svanemyr’s friend Jessica Rucker said.
At the vigil, Svanemyr will be remembered and there will be a call for increased safety measures. Rucker, who lives in Bernal Heights about eight blocks from the park, said community members will demand accountability and change from the parks department.
“It was a shocking, tragic event that could have been prevented,” Rucker said. “We want to see that the city is doing something.”
Specifically, they want access to the full investigation into how the accident happened, along with documentation of any previous complaints from visitors to the park and how they were handled by the city.
Attendees have been asked to bring a flower to the 30-minute public ceremony, which is open to families.
Sasha Lekach, Bay City News