Woman's death raises questions for SF Rec and Park

September 13, 2013 9:43:46 PM PDT
The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department may not have been following its own rules the day Christine Svanemyr was killed. Gardener Thomas Buronski was behind the wheel of a city truck when police say he ran over Svanemyr while she was lying in the sun.

Burnoski says through his lawyer that nothing he can say or do can ever address the sorrow of Svanemyr's husband, family and friends. His lawyer says the terrible tragedy has hit both families hard.

Police say Burnoski, 57, drove away after running over Svanemyr last week. He was arrested several blocks from Holly Park.

Burnoski's lawyer Bob Wagenner says he's distraught and sad.

"My client is devastated," Wagenner said. "He's never been in trouble before. He's a mess. He realizes that his actions have resulted in the death of a young mother."

There is a sad and tragic twist to story. At the time of the accident, Burnoski was coping with a personal tragedy. In April, his 20-year-old daughter Tiffany was killed in a car accident.

"He's not doing well; he's not eating, he's not sleeping," Wagenner said. "It's really taken its toll on him."

Prosecutors are waiting for the results of Burnoski's toxicology report. Waggener says he already knows what it's going to show.

He doesn't drink, he doesn't smoke; he's a religious man," Wagenner said.

Waggener says it was strictly an accident.

At that time, he did not know he hurt somebody, or for that matter, killed somebody," he said.

After the accident, Recreation and Parks Department showed ABC7 News its policy prohibiting workers from driving on pedestrian walkways and grassy areas without a spotter -- another worker looking out for people and other obstructions, indicating that Burnoski violated park regulations.

"Well, I've never actually seen that regulation talking about spotters," Recreation and Parks Department electrician Helen Vozenilek said.

Vozenilek has been a Recreation and Parks Department electrician for 22 years. She drives a truck to the city's parks and recreation centers. Vozenilek says if spotting is the policy, the department doesn't enforce it.

"We don't have the person power to do that -- to have one person driving and one person running ahead and making sure," she said.

Waggenner says to single out his client for driving solo just like other park workers do is wrong.

"The idea to have somebody spot every time they're driving around is not practical, it is not reasonable, it's not what happens," he said.

The district attorney's office is still reviewing the case and has yet to file charges. Burnoski is out on bail.


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