Young Woman Killed by Muni Driver Remembered in the Castro

Photos of Emily Dunn have been posted at the intersection where she was killed Friday. Photos: Bryan Goebel

Her name was Emily Dunn, and over the weekend, a steady stream of friends and people who never knew her brought flowers, candles and photos of her to the site in the Castro where the young woman was killed Friday afternoon by a Muni driver. A grief-stricken friend, who I met Saturday, said Dunn, who was only 23, had moved to San Francisco from Atlanta a month ago and was just beginning a new life.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, Dunn was in the crosswalk and “had crossed the street about 95 percent of the way” when she was run over and killed around 2:30 p.m. by a Muni F-line shuttle turning from 18th Street onto Hartford. “The driver is shaken up by this,” a police spokesperson told the Chronicle, adding that “at this point there is no reason to believe he was impaired.”

In the Castro neighborhood where the collision occurred, the sadness was palpable. On Saturday and Sunday, some neighbors and visitors who didn’t know Dunn brought flowers and paid their respects to grieving friends who gathered at the site. One woman who works nearby told me her friend saw the aftermath, was very traumatized and began noticing “all the drivers who speed on 18th and are on their cell phones.”

SFMTA Chied Ed Reiskin, who went to the scene of the crash Friday, issued a “statement of condolences” on behalf of the agency:

Speaking for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and its 5,000 employees, I express our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the pedestrian killed in the tragic accident this afternoon involving a Muni bus.  Our condolences go out to all concerned during this difficult time. The SFMTA will continue to work with the SFPD as we undertake all necessary investigations of this matter.

Elizabeth Stampe, the executive director of Walk San Francisco, called it a “real tragedy,” and said it points to the need for additional attention “to the priority of pedestrian safety in the city.”

“This could have been anyone hit and killed by a bus. I think this also points to the need for better training for Muni drivers, to watch out for vulnerable users of the streets,” she said. “We’re going to have more and more people walking and biking around our city, and we really need to figure out how to make it safer. We need a lot more fixes to our streets to make them safer.”

The SFMTA has not released any information about the driver, although we do have a request in for more information. We’ll update the story as we get more.

Update, 4:45 p.m : SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said the unidentified driver has been with Muni since January, and that he shouldn’t have been driving on Hartford.

“Our policy is to operate buses on streets that have regular assigned service. Hartford does not have scheduled service, and our policy is it should not operate on streets like that,” Rose said. The SFMTA did not immediately know the age of the driver, or where he resides.

A spokesperson for SFPD would only say that the investigation is continuing, and the inspector who is working on the case would forward it to the District Attorney’s office to review if any charges would be filed against the driver.

A reader also tipped us off to this short film featuring Emily that is on YouTube:

  • Anonymous

    Why would a sane MUNI bus driver be turning on to Hartford?  There is a 4-way stop at that corner.  How could a MUNI driver not see a pedestrian in the crosswalk?  There are so many pedestrians on that block.  How could a driver not be extra-vigilant? 

  • JK

    Because he he did not stop and was checking out the scene at Mobys kitty-corner from the accident. Buses should NEVER turn down Hartford. It is small and as you said and full of dogs, pedestrians, homeless, you name it. It could have been me as I cross that street everyday. I feel so terrible for what happened to Emily. Beautiful young girl snuffed out by a careless Muni driver.

  • So tragic and entirely preventable.  What I posted on the Today’s Headlines thread about this:

    I don’t understand why a bus was even turning up Hartford.  It’s a very
    narrow congested street that in my view shouldn’t even allow through car
    traffic at the 17th st end (bike and ped access only. People who live
    on the block would access via 18th.) The bus should have gone to Noe to
    make the turn. In addition, that intersection is full of pedestrians,
    especially on a Saturday afternoon. This woman clearly had the right of
    way, but even if the crosswalk had been entirely empty, the bus driver
    should have take the turn extremely slowly (slow enough to not kill
    anyone) because a pedestrian could pop out of nowhere at that
    intersection at any time.

    So we have

    1) bad design–Muni should never expect any bus to go down Hartford

    and

    2)
    bad training or operational policies–in highly congested pedestrian
    areas, Muni should never make turns fast enough to kill someone on
    impact. Yes, this may mean traveling at 3 or 4 mph. (A good reason to
    limit turns in congested areas.)

  • mikesonn

    Not that it takes away from your points, but I believe this happened on Friday. Also, she was run over so the “impact” of being hit wasn’t what killed her. Though, a slower moving bus would have been able to stop sooner and possibly avoiding running her over.

  • Mike,

    Thanks for the correction about the date.  Not sure how to interpret the words “hit” and “struck” in the article. I am amazed that anyone at that very tight intersection could, after making a full stop, get a vehicle going fast enough to run over anybody in the short distance available. But evidently it happened and a young woman’s life is no more. This is my neighborhood and it’s an intersection my family and I traverse all the time by bike (three times in the last three days), so it’s doubly upsetting to me. In general I would say it’s not an intersection that causes me much anxiety precisely because it’s so congested with a stop every short block that no one can help but go slowly. In fact, I take Hartford across 18th here just so I can avoid the total craziness that is the Castro/18th intersection.

  • sadly I bet the driver wouldn’t even get suspended or if they are it will be paid leave. She was in the crosswalk, had the right of way, the driver not only hit her but then ran over her all at what is suppose to be 4 way stop. If was just a regular driver you can bet they would be in jail on vehicular manslaughter charges but since it’s a muni driver, the driver will probably be out on paid “disability” due to the stress from having killed someone or will be back driving in  no time.

  • Skeeterblodgett

    Beautiful young woman.  So sad.

  • Dodd1015

    This was a beautiful young girl…a recent graduate from a great private school in Atlanta…just up the street from my home.  I was out with my dog Sunday morning when a neighbor told me the sad story….and another neighbor who knew her was walking by and was told the sad news and burst into tears.  She had her whole life in front of her….all that hard work…all that love and caring that got her to this place in life…a recent college grad….all to be snuffed out by some careless driver operating a bus on a road he/she should not have been on apparently.  No excuses for these mistakes….what a price this family has paid.

  • NN

    While it is extremely sad and tragic for this beautiful young woman to have lost her life and in such a tragic way…. I also think it is upsetting to be lambasting the driver at such early stages. Yes, MUNI is pathetic and poorly run. However, I’m pretty sure it is not the driver’s intention to hit a pedestrian and that they are pretty shaken up by it. Also, considering it was a shuttle that was pulled from another line… the driver was most likely unfamiliar with the structure of the street and layout of the area as say a driver who is accustomed to driving the same route on a regular basis would be more aware of particular turns that require extra attention or high pedestrian or foot traffic areas. We need to know if this driver was given clear instructions by MUNI operations on a specific route to take to get to the F line and if he followed or did not follow them. Until them, as much as I love to pick apart MUNI , I would hope we would cut the driver some slack. And, of course my deepest heartfelt condolences to this young woman, her friends and family. This should also help us all learn to be more aware as both pedestrians and drivers!

  • Monte

    I think as a community we demand to know the outcome of what has gone on with the driver of this bus that tragically took the life of a beautiful, young woman.  We are owed an explanation from SFMTA and the SFPD.  We live and walk the streets of this city and deserve the right to feel safe when doing so.  There is no comprehensible excuse for what has happened here.  ABSOLUTELY NONE!  My heart goes out to Emily Dunn’s family and friends. 

  • Andy Chow

    I suggest that let the investigation to complete before drawing any conclusion as to who is at fault or what the driver should face as the consequence. My view is that running over someone is not something that a commercial driver wants to do, because it would ruin their lives as well. The issue regarding what mistake was made, what could be done differently, etc, should be revealed as a part of the investigation.

  • Matty J.

    Just curious why so many people have to mention the tragic loss of this specifically beautiful young woman? It would be a tragedy no matter what she looked like.

  • Mdg1111

    Don’t use someone else’s death as an opportunity to bring up your own issues.

  • icarus12

    Yes, Matty J. I think you are right — this is a tragedy for this woman her family, and her friends.  And maybe for all the people who would have enjoyed her company, her talents, and love in the years to come.  She was truly at the beginning of a full adult life.  That makes me especially sad.  And contrary to the comment from Mdg1111, you are not airing your own issues, but ours as a society.  We value some persons more than others and feel empathy more easily for the young, the talented, the beautiful.  I was struck, too, by the frequent references to this person’s beauty.  I hope we learn more about her as a person.

  • Here’s a good write-up about Emily from Will Reisman at the Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2011/08/muni-victim-had-just-moved-sf

  • “the driver was most likely unfamiliar with the structure of the street and layout of the area”
    Every day people – who do not drive for a living – drive in unfamiliar areas without incident. It’s a condition of having a driver’s license.

  • Annieh2011

    Emily was indeed a beautiful girl; more importantly, she was a beautiful person.  She had two majors, Religious Studies and Environmental Studies.  She worked on her University’s organic farm.  If it was nice out, she always commented on what a lovely day it was.  She was not so good at de-icing her car in winter.  🙂  She was a talented artist, particularly in photography and design.  She was extraordinarily charismatic, a natural hostess.  She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, but she always strived — very consciously — to be respectful of others.  She was an engaged, productive member of whichever community she was a part of.  She always signed her emails, “Peace.”  She always meant it.  And she is dearly missed. 

  • Sales

    The MUNI and “city family” will circle many wagons around the driver. This is vehicular manslaughter but I doubt he will be charged. His life will go one. I blame the MUNI and city for hiring morons, giving them little safety training. The culture of MUNI gives safety low priority.

  • Sales

    There is no excuse for this. You see a person in the crosswalk you STOP.
    Shaken up is he????? The girl is DEAD.

  • Andychow

    My suggestion is to let the process go forward. It is no different than a criminal case.

    I don’t think many people here know or have experienced commercial bus driving. For them their class B license is like having a license to practice medicine or law, and that a bad driving record can ruin their lives. The difference is that it is not something you have to spend years in college to get. On the other hand they face a lot of pressure and don’t get any respect (from other drivers on the road and passengers).

    You can’t have sustainable transportation without transit and you can’t have transit without bus drivers.

  • Jacque

    I wanted to say Thank you for writing about her, thank you to the neighborhood for embracing all of those that loved her. Such wonderful people in San Francisco. after spending the day at the site on Saturday and building this “make”shift memorial, i was warmed by the number of people that came by to tell their stories of what happened, their thoughts and their prayers. One man even gave me $20 for the family towards funeral costs. The love that is there is real. No one knew Emily, because she just moved here. But i can say, i’ve known her for years. We worked together on many many projects. She had stamina like no other. Her positive attitude was un believable. The stories are grand, enough for a book or movie. I’m so sad that she is gone. Peace and Love, Emily. I love you.

  • ddknabgmailifyagetmydrift

    Jacque, I’m in Georgia and a close friend of the Dunn’s.  I emailed you a before the event at the Fillmore. I found your email address from a string of messages passed to me. I bet that event was very special.  Can you do me a favor or find someone else who can?  The funeral in Atlanta is this Saturday. I called Urban Flowers after having ordered and paid for 6 dozen white roses they agreed to take to the memorial you, sweet you, created for Emily. Thank you for that.  They said they took pictures as I requested they do, on Tuesday, by their cell phone to then send  to my phone.  Never got um.  Tried three times.  Even emailed um with “Plan B”,  Now I have no idea if the flowers got there or not. I have doubt. Can somebody take a picture and send it to me if anything good can be reported?  If nobody ever saw a single white rose ever, Monday or Tuesday, then I need to chat again with Urban Flowers.

  • former classmate

    She actually went to school in St. Louis.

  • Samantha Houston

    Emily Elizabeth Dunn Is my cousin and I saw her and had an amazing day with her about 2 months before this tragic accident happened. I loved her so much and she meant EVERYTHING to me and the entire family. This will go on with us the rest of our lives and I thank everyone that took part in the memorial and putting out flowers for her and sending thier condolence. She was the smartest person ive ever know and made a hudge impact on the world. went to 6 different continents and lived a life that many people wont ever beable to expericence.of only 23 years of life on earth i know she deserved many more years to come instead of having to die like that. :'( Beautiful, amazingl smart, and its very hard to describe, she was just so special, undescribeable

  • Pmhaas

    sorry I cannot agree with you.  If you are at the wheel of a 3-4 ton vehicle, turning into a *crosswalk* it is your responsibility to yield to any pedestrian in the crosswalk.  No if’s and’s or but’s. Especially when the stakes are so high, as this tragic accident demonstrates.

  • Pmhaas

    Residents of Castro and San Francisco-  you owe it to the memory of Emily Dunn to get to the bottom of why this happened, and how to make sure this never happens again.  A fatality in a crosswalk at a four-way stop?!  Res ipsa loquitor.

  • former high school classmate

    former classmate – she went to a private school in Atlanta for 14 years. She went to college in St. Louis. 

  • Littlebonino

    IVE HEARD THE MUNI DRIVER WAS OFF COURSE….WHOS SUEING ?

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