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San Francisco Rec & Park Worker Pleads Not Guilty In Woman's Death

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A San Francisco Recreation and Park Department employee who is accused of running over and killing a woman sunbathing in Holly Park pleaded not guilty Wednesday in the case.

Thomas Burnoski, 58, faces felony vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run charges in the death of 35-year-old Christine Svanemyr.

On the afternoon of September 5th, Svanemyr was with her 11-month-old daughter at the park in the city's Bernal Heights when she was hit by a city-owned truck. Her daughter was not physically hurt in the incident.

San Francisco Rec And Park Worker Enters Not Guilty Plea In Woman's Death

Burnoski's attorney, Tony Tamburello, said his client was driving on an asphalt path typically used by city park workers, when he veered onto the grass to avoid a dog that had darted in front of him.

"He is very devastated and wishes he could change what happened, but knows he can't," Tamburello said.

Burnoski drove away following the incident and told supervisors he thought he had hit a dog, before returning to the scene. He was later arrested and released on bail.

Friends and family of Burnoski said he is a churchgoing man with five children, a wife and a clean record. Svanemyr's husband was said to be too distraught to attend the hearing.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said Burnoski showed reckless disregard when he drove off the path without a spotter, and then left the scene.

"San Franciscans need to know that our parks are a place where they should expect safety and that they will find that," he said.

Burnoski's bail has been reduced from $350,000 to $100,000 and he is scheduled back in court next week.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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