New questions in case of fatal hit-and-run in San Francisco

September 10, 2013 1:41:00 PM PDT
There is growing momentum to prevent another tragedy like one that happened last week in a San Francisco city park when Christy Svanemyr was run over by a city truck while she was lying in the sun with her baby and her dog. Some people believe this type of tragedy was bound to happen.

"Days after it, I'm still in shock over how this could have happened. It just should not happen," Mayor Ed Lee told ABC7 News. He is demanding a thorough investigation of last week's tragic accident at Holly Park. Christy Svanemyr was run over by a Recreation and Park Department maintenance truck Thursday afternoon as she was sunbathing on the grass at Holly Park with her baby and dog.

Police identified the city worker as 57-year-old Tom Burnoski. Witnesses told police he drove off without stopping. Police tracked him down a few blocks away and took him into custody. Many neighbors told ABC7 News that workers often drove recklessly onto walking paths and grassy areas.

Those neighbors include Rachel Bonnefil. On February 26, she went to the Recreation and Park Department website and filed a complaint saying, "Park maintenance workers who clean the bathrooms routinely drive their trucks/vans through the park on pedestrian paths. They do this in the dark and visibility is not good due to bushes/hedges and some of the workers drive far too fast..."

On Friday, the day after the fatal accident, Bonnefil took a screenshot of the web page showing complaints that have been filed. Her complaint was number "1454." It read that her complaint was still "Open," in other words, not resolved. Her page showed no response from her complaint.

She checked again Sunday, September 8 and discovered, to her surprise, that her page now read "Closed - Parkscan addressed," meaning that her complaint resulted in a response. It also indicated that whatever that action was, it took place March 11, about two weeks after her complaint.

Bonnefil is suspicious of all this and believes the department may have changed her page after the accident. Supervisor David Campos, whose district includes Holly Park, also wants to get to the bottom of this particular complaint. "I think it's important for Rec and Park to know that this is out there, that this accusation has been made, and to make sure they respond fully," he said.

The Rec and Park Department says they fired the worker Bonnefil complained about, but Bonnefil says she never mentioned a name in her complaint. As for the sudden change regarding the response to her complaint, Rec and Park referred ABC7 News to the city's 311 department which works on complaints from Parkscan.

311 referred ABC7 News to the group "Park Alliance," which also deals with those complaints. They say there was a server upgrade and information about the department's response must have been lost. Still, one big question remains.

Who changed the response to the complaint over the weekend from open to closed? And, why then?

Anyone who may have witnessed the incident or has surveillance footage of the area is asked to call the Police Department's Ingleside station at (415) 404-4000.

Note: The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department wants to clarify that Parkscan is not a city-operated site. A non-profit group called "San Francisco Park Alliance" maintains Parkscan and is responsible for its content.


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