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Snowplow operator who hit pedestrians may face charge

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Santa Fe police are considering a careless driving charge against a city government snowplow driver who struck a couple Friday evening and then drove away.

The accident caused serious injury to a 68-year-old retired ophthalmologist and also injured his musician wife, who is the same age.

Joseph Fammartino

Toni Fammartino was treated for a cut on the back of her head and reported pain in her shoulder, while Joseph Fammartino had more serious facial injuries and could possibly suffer vision loss and brain damage, according to a police report. He was reported to be in satisfactory condition at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque on Monday.

Santa Fe Police Department spokesman Greg Gurule said in an email Monday that officers were considering only a careless driving charge for snowplow driver Billy Kavanaugh. He may not face a charge for leaving the scene of an accident because he was “adamant he did not know he struck anyone,” Gurule wrote.

While she was being treated at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, Toni Fammartino told an officer that she and her husband were walking south on Galisteo and stopped at Paseo de Peralta, on the edge of downtown Santa Fe. They began to cross Paseo after they were given a walk signal.

“Once in the crosswalk, Toni said she just saw the snowplow hit them and the next thing she remembered was lying on the road next to Joseph,” the report says.

Kavanaugh told an officer that he was heading north on Galisteo Street and made a left turn onto Paseo de Peralta. He said he did not remember hitting anyone. The report says he “was really remorseful in his answers and was really concerned about the status of the injured.”

As part of his snowplow route, Kavanaugh circled back to the same intersection and called a supervisor about the accident, which by that time had been reported to police by a driver who saw the Fammartinos in the road, bleeding.

Kavanaugh then drove away again.

The supervisor called Kavanaugh back and said there was a report that a snowplow hit the two pedestrians and asked him to return to the scene.

The driver told police that it was a dark intersection and he hadn’t seen anyone, “not even other vehicles.”

The reporting officer wrote that no street lights were on at the intersection and that it was “very dark,” with only traffic lights providing illumination.

The accident was reported about 6:18 p.m., an hour after sunset. The police report says snow had just started falling, but, wet from previous storms, the streets were starting to become icy.

The officer later inspected the city-owned snowplow and saw evidence that it had hit someone.

“On the black rubber piece that is along the front top, right hand side of the snowplow, it appeared to have a hand print with dragging marks straight down,” the report says.

Kavanaugh is not driving for the city at this time, but is still employed, city spokesman Matt Ross said.

Per city policy, he was given an “immediate drug and alcohol test” Friday night, said Ross, and Kavanaugh won’t get back behind the wheel “until the results of that testing is in.”

Relatives of the Fammartino couple, whose home address is in the Las Campanas area northwest of Santa Fe, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Joseph Fammartino formerly worked for DaVita Medical Group in Albuquerque, and the police report says he had retired. A DaVita spokesperson said she couldn’t provide anyone to talk about Fammartino.

Previously, he founded a practice in Ohio that specialized in treating diseases of the retina and vitreous, and had worked in eye care in Santa Fe.

He is also a serious photographer, whose work has been in shown at galleries in Santa Fe and elsewhere, including at an Ohio museum.

Some of his photographs posted on his website document people he encountered on trips he and Toni Fammartino have taken to provide eye care in third world countries through surgical expeditions with the Medical Ministry International Project.

A web posting says Toni Fammartino is trained as a classical pianist and enjoys playing chamber music. She has been active at Christ Church Santa Fe as a member of the congregation’s music team.

Journal North editor Mark Oswald contributed to this story.