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At funeral Mass, hundreds mourn family killed by driver at San Francisco bus stop

An international crowd paid respects to Diego Cardoso de Oliveira, Matilde Ramos Pinto, and their two small children in a liturgy at St. Dominic's.

Luis Ramos Pinto, center left, and Dennis Cardoso de Oliveira lead a funeral procession into St. Dominic Catholic Church in San Francisco on Tuesday, April 2, with the cremated remains of the Pinto de Oliveira family, a couple and two young sons killed by a reckless driver in March. (Nate Tinner-Williams)

SAN FRANCISCO — Hundreds packed into St. Dominic Catholic Church on April 2 to mourn a young family killed by a driver at a bus stop in the West Portal neighborhood last month. The tragedy has rocked the city, which has long faced criticism on the issue of pedestrian safety.

Brazilian-born advertising professional Diego Cardoso de Oliveira, 40, and his 38-year-old wife Matilde Ramos Pinto, a Portuguese-Irish video producer, were killed with their two sons—19-month-old Joaquim and 3-month-old Cauê—while waiting near a Muni Metro train station.

Just after Easter Sunday, Jesuit Father Donal Godfrey, who had been prepping the children for baptism at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Lone Mountain, spoke at the funeral on the theme of resurrection.

“This week, Christians like myself celebrate the Easter season and we live in hope because of our experience that Christ is risen, living in our world in our hearts and at this table,” the priest said in his homily, as the family’s cremated remains sat nearby in twin black urns.

“God is not the God of the dead but of the living, for in God all are alive.”

Godfrey noted that the couple had been planning a celebration to coincide with their children’s reception of the sacrament and the anniversary of their wedding, which occurred under heavy restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The date was reportedly March 16—the same day they lost their lives this year.

The remains of the Pinto de Oliveira family in black urns near the sanctuary at St. Dominic Catholic Church, where their funeral was held in San Francisco on Tuesday, April 2. (Nate Tinner-Williams)

Sobs peppered the 90-minute liturgy on Tuesday, conducted bilingually with concelebrant Fr Edwin Maurico Martinez-Callejas, SJ, a local Portuguese-language chaplain, and Dcn Chuck McNeil. The Mass was well-attended by parishioners, colleagues, family, and friends, some of whom traveled from overseas to be present. Hundreds more watched online via livestream.

Before the praying of the collect, siblings of the late couple shared reflections on the legacy of four lives lost too soon.

“He was caring and gentle. He brought so much joy to our lives,” said Denise Cardoso de Oliveira of the young Joaquim, who died at the scene of the crash with his father. “He was so special.”

Luis Ramos Pinto read from his sister’s journal, where entries spoke of her love for her family, the gravity of childrearing, and the brevity of life.

“I am enjoying where I am in life but want to be inspired to progress and develop and really make the best of this short time we have on earth,” she wrote.

“I am so privileged to be a mother. No matter what people say, motherhood changes you. It opens your heart… Love is life.”

Dcn Chuck McNeil reads the Prayers of the Faithful during the funeral Mass for the Pinto de Oliveira family. (Nate Tinner-Williams)

The deaths of the Pinto de Oliveira family marked 11 traffic fatalities this year in San Francisco, which is on track for the deadliest year on the street in decades. The city, through its Vision Zero initiative, pledged in 2013 to end pedestrian deaths within ten years but numbers have largely remained steady.

Following the deadly West Portal crash, advocates have put their weight behind a proposal to shut off vehicular traffic near the intersection where the young family perished. An online petition has since reached over 4,700 signatures.

Mayor London Breed, in comments on March 28, said the city's street infrastructure needs “a complete overhaul” but did not commit to specific changes in West Portal.

The driver of the SUV that struck the Pinto de Oliveiras, 78-year-old Mary Fong Lau of San Francisco, has been charged with 3 counts of felony vehicular manslaughter, felony reckless driving causing bodily injury, and additional traffic violations.

City officials say she was speeding before crossing the centerline, overrunning a sidewalk, striking a library building, and plowing into the bus stop. She was booked in absentia while being treated for injuries at a local hospital.

The San Francisco Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Lau is currently in custody.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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