San Francisco to Pay $15M in Fatal Park Hit-and-Run

October 3, 2014

San Francisco will pay $15 million to the family of a woman who was fatally struck by a city pickup truck last year while she lay with her baby in a public park.

The city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the legal settlement Tuesday to 35-year-old Christine Svanemyr’s widower, Vegar, and their child, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Svanemyr was relaxing with her 11-month-old baby and dog in the grass at Holly Park in the city’s Bernal Heights neighborhood on Sept. 5, 2013, when she was run over by a city Recreation and Park Department truck.

The parks gardener who was driving the truck, 58-year-old Thomas Burnoski, was charged with vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run. The city fired him, and his criminal case is ongoing.

Burnoski says he veered onto the lawn from a paved pedestrian path to avoid an unleashed dog. After hitting the woman, he drove to a work meeting. His lawyer, Robert Waggener, says Burnoski didn’t realize he had hit a person and that the case was a tragic accident.

In November, the family filed a legal claim against the city, which is a precursor to a lawsuit.

Earlier this year, city officials said they wanted to resolve the claim without putting the grieving family through litigation.

Svanemyr was a West Virginia native who earned multiple college degrees, trained life coaches and belonged to an African dance group. She met her husband in Salt Lake City, where they were studying Zen Buddhism.

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