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Former W.Va. woman killed in Calif. hit-and-run

By Vivian Ho and Kurtis Alexander

San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO -- A woman who was killed when she was run over by a San Francisco Recreation and Parks pickup Thursday in Bernal Heights has been identified as Daly City resident and Zen monk Christine Moses Svanemyr, 35.

Svanemyr was lying with her baby and dog in the lawn at Holly Park when the driver of the city truck ran her over shortly after 2 p.m. Her baby and dog are OK, police said.

The driver, Thomas Burnoski, 57, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run.

Police said Burnoski fled the park after hitting the woman but was detained several blocks away and taken to Ingleside Station for questioning. He has been an employee of the parks department since 2006, city officials said.

Svanemyr was an ordained Zen monk working as the director of development for New Ventures West, an integral coaching company that helps people meet their full potential in life, according to the company's website.

The Morgantown High School graduate earned degrees from West Virginia University in anthropology, sociology and ecotourism and recreation management. She was a lifelong dancer who once performed at the World Cup in South Korea as part of the professional African dance group Azagano.

Her daughter, Isa Amalie, was born in October 2012. The company website said Svanemyr regarded the girl as "her greatest joy and teacher."

"Finding herself stretched in ways she didn't know was possible, Christy now understands her monk vows in a entirely new way," her profile states. "It's no longer a good idea to 'save all sentient beings' but her responsibility to try to do as much as possible to make this world a kinder, gentler place for our sons and daughters to be in."

In addition to her daughter, Svanemyr leaves her husband, Vegar Svanemyr.

Several Bernal Heights residents said Thursday there is a gardener who they've seen driving recklessly before at Holly Park, a popular space frequented by dog owners and their pets. It was unclear if that gardener is Burnoski.

The San Francisco Police Department said Friday that an investigation into Svanemyr's death continues. Sarah Ballard, a spokeswoman for the recreation and parks department, said Burnoski has been placed on administrative leave without pay, pending the investigation.

Ballard said she wouldn't comment on an open investigation, but said the department's vehicle policy is that workers are never allowed to drive on park pathways, sidewalks, closed roads or the actual park area "merely for convenience purposes."

"If work requirements necessitate operating a city vehicle on a park-scape or other surface not designed for vehicle operation, utilize a staff person outside the vehicle to serve as a safety watch or otherwise guide vehicle movement," the policy reads.

One complaint on Parkscan.org, a website that allows residents to submit park observations to the city, noted that the drivers routinely used the pedestrian paths.

"Some of the workers drive far too fast for safety under these conditions," the complaint states.

Gazette-Mail staff contributed to this report.


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