and Joshua Melvin
SAN FRANCISCO -- A woman who died Thursday after being run over by a San Francisco Recreation and Parks pickup truck was a Zen monk and married mother of an infant daughter, co-workers said.
Christine Svanemyr, 35, was hit as she lay in the grass Thursday afternoon with her 11-month-old daughter and dog at Holly Park, in the city's Bernal Heights neighborhood. The driver was a city employee, identified by police on Friday as 57-year-old Thomas Burnoski. He was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run because he allegedly drove away after striking Svanemyr, police said.
Burnoski, of San Francisco, was being held Friday at the San Francisco County Jail, San Francisco police Officer Albie Esparza said.
About 2:20 p.m. Thursday, officers rushed to the park after getting a report that a woman had been run over and that the driver had taken off, according to San Francisco police Officer Tracy Turner. Svanemyr was taken to the hospital and later pronounced dead. Her daughter and dog, sitting with her on the south end of the park, south of the tennis courts, were not hurt, police said.
Svanemyr was an ordained Zen monk who worked as director of enrollment at New Ventures West, a San Francisco-based school that trains life coaches. Her husband, Vegar, also works there.
"Christy was full of brilliance, passion and kindness," according to a statement from the school. "Her high energy and infectious enthusiasm impacted everything and everyone she touched."
She had been part of a professional African dance group called Azagano, which led to her performing all over the world, including at the World Cup in South Korea. She graduated magna cum laude in both anthropology and sociology, as well as ecotourism and recreation management, from West Virginia University, said Svanemyr's profile on the school's website.
"Her greatest joy and teacher is her daughter, Isa Amalie," the profile said.
Burnoski was detained a few blocks from the park and was arrested, police said.
According to recreation and parks spokeswoman Sarah Ballard, Burnoski worked for the department since January 2006.
Phil Ginsburg, general manager for the department, released a statement late Thursday saying the department is cooperating with the San Francisco Police Department's hit-and-run unit as it investigates the incident.
"I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victim of a tragic accident that occurred at Holly Park this afternoon," he said in the statement. "This is a devastating day for all."
Patricia Leach, who has lived in the neighborhood off and on since the 1960s, said she has seen more recreation and parks vehicles recently in Holly Park's grassy areas, some speeding.
"They drive too fast, and there's no need," Leach said.
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Burnoski's driving record is clean except for a March 2012 citation in Alameda County for driving while using a cellphone.
After Thursday's crash, police gave Burnoski a drug and alcohol test. The results from that toxicology test could take several weeks to be complete, police said.
According to public records, including the Fresno County's Coroner's Office, Burnoski's 20-year-old daughter, Tiffany Faith Burnoski, died April 6 in a fatal car crash on Interstate 5 in Fresno County, authorities said.
His daughter was in the passenger seat when the driver, 20-year-old Casey Chow of San Francisco, lost control of a 1998 Toyota Corolla near Coalinga, a California Highway Patrol officer said.