Kavana's Story: Sharing her story of pain to help others

Kavana Jane Hero

After she received the knock at the door that every family dreads, Kavana Jane wants to help save lives on the road.

Kavana Jane wakes up to the sound of fierce banging on her front door and she knows something’s wrong.

It’s 7.45am on Thursday 6 August 2020. She gets out of bed disoriented and concerned to find her neighbour at the door.

She informs Kavana that her husband had just driven past an accident on State Highway 1 and could clearly make out her fiancée Lance Bell’s bike. It was a serious crash.

Kavana stood there for a few moments in a state of shock. It was too much to take in and a stark contrast to most mornings. Like clockwork, Lance would cook bacon and eggs for breakfast – a smell that Kavana would wake up to. But on this fateful day she slept in.

“I didn’t wake up to the smell of bacon. I woke up to the sound of my neighbour banging as hard as she could on my front door… It was like waking up to a nightmare.”

Kavana’s worst fears were soon confirmed.

Kavana and her young daughter Harley look closely at a Harley Davidson motorbike

Credit: Julia Sabugosa

“The worst day of my life”

Kavana had her five-month-old daughter Harley-Jean on her hip. She had tears streaming down her face and was in no shape to drive to Palmerston North Hospital so her Dad rushed around to help.

Kavana sent a text to all of Lance’s family and friends which read: “Lance has been in an accident and it’s serious. If you can, meet at the Palmerston North Hospital”.

They turned up in droves with around 50 people packing into the Intensive Care Unit.

“It was amazing to see how many people dropped everything to be by his side and to be with me. I’ll always remember that,” she says.

Kavana was told by the doctors that Lance had suffered a range of serious injuries and he was on life support. They told her to go and sit by his side because they didn’t think he was going to make it.

I was told it was probably best to turn the life support off. It was the worst decision I’ve ever had to make.
- Kavana Jane

“At that point I broke down,” she says. “Seeing Lance in that state was heart breaking. I rushed to his side and I was just screaming. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I was sitting there, praying for him to wake up and say that everything was going to be OK.”

But that wasn’t what happened. Lance’s heart went into cardiac arrest at 5:30pm, around 10 hours after the crash and he had two emergency operations.

“At that stage I was told Lance wasn’t going to make it through another hour and it was probably best to turn the life support off. It was the worst decision I’ve ever had to make.”

With Harley-Jean lying on his chest, Kavana turned off the life support. He died three minutes later at 6.03pm.

“He was surrounded by everyone he loved, and he was holding his daughter,” says Kavana. “That was the worst day of my life.”

Kavana and young Harley place their hand's on Lance's ashes

Credit: Julia Sabugosa

A split-second decision with lifelong consequences

The accident report says Lance Bell (29) was killed when riding his Harley-Davidson to work in Palmerston North from Levin on the morning of 6 August.

He was travelling at around 70 – 80km per hour in a 100km per hour zone.

The driver was on a learner’s driving licence and should not have been behind the wheel. She turned across State Highway 56 into his path. The impact of the crash threw Lance 30m from the accident.

Kavana says that Lance was almost unrecognisable lying unconscious in his hospital bed.

“It’s embedded in my head. The scrapes and the cuts and the bruises. The different lines in his arms… it was so hard to see.”

The past 15 months since the crash Kavana has grieved and is adjusting to life without her partner. On Friday 6 August, 12 months since the crash, Kavana and her dad celebrated Lance’s life.

Kavana, young Harley and her Dad pose in front of a motorbike

Credit: Julia Sabugosa

Motorcycles are in the blood and family. Lance was a rider. Kavana’s dad is a rider and “my daughter’s name is Harley for bloody sake”, laughs Kavana.

Kavana and her dad jumped on her old man’s Harley Davidson with Lance’s ashes to take him for a whirl. “Lance would’ve wanted that. He loved it when the family was together.”

“I want to help others”

Kavana wants to tell her story so people can see the personal cost of a crash on our roads.

“Lance’s crash changed my life and the life of my little girl. We had our whole lives together to look forward to. Now we are living in hell and we miss him terribly.”

She’s driving in Palmerston North when she hears the ACC ‘Look Again, Look Again’ commercial. The campaign urges drivers to take a moment at intersections and look again. She wants to help. “Lance’s death shows the need for all New Zealanders to make better decisions on our roads. They are dangerous places.

If the driver had just taken another second, just to think about pulling out, he would’ve passed by the time she had thought about it.”

Kevin Williams runs the Survival Skills advanced rider training in the UK. He is a regular speaker in Ride Forever’s Shiny Side Up series. He says blind spots aren't just about the limits of a vehicle's rear vision mirrors.

Ride Forever is an ACC initiative. It is aimed at giving riders information and access to training, so they can make better choices.

Harley stands in front of a motorbike

Credit: Julia Sabugosa

We've got to be more aware of the dangers at intersections – all of us.
- Dave Keilty, Injury Prevention Leader - ACC New Zealand

“Our brains are very good at picking out movement in our peripheral vision," he says. "But we do this by spotting familiar objects using pattern recognition."

“The trouble is these snapshots may not pick up the pattern of unexpected objects like a motorcyclist.”

It’s a phenomenon known as saccadic masking. It's part of the science behind the advice to look again at intersections.

The Waka Kotahi (NZ Transport Agency) have a Crash Analysis System. It shows between 2015 and 2019 there were 4,255 injuries and 76 fatal motorcycle crashes in urban areas.

Intersection crashes account for 64 percent of urban motorcycle crashes. Of this 64 percent, other vehicle drivers are at fault 82 percent of the time.

"We've got to be more aware of the dangers at intersections – all of us," says Dave Keilty, ACC Injury Prevention Leader. "Look again for motorcyclists, not just the gap. Be aware of your blind spots."

Harley sits on a Harley Davidson motorbike

Credit: Julia Sabugosa

Kavana hopes that every time any driver pulls out at an intersection, they stop and take their time. Lance had completed a Ride Forever course and Kavana says he talked about it all the time.

“Lance found it invaluable,” she says. “I would 100 percent recommend for all riders to complete a Ride Forever course. He got great tips like traction in the wet and how to manage his bike.”

More than 27,000 motorcyclists have completed Ride Forever courses. Our data shows riders who complete a course are 27 percent less likely to make a crash-related injury claim.

Coping with the trauma

Kavana doesn’t think she would have coped without the support of ACC.

“Life has been so hard since Lance’s death,” she says. “It is hard to describe how tough it has been. We are very lucky to have a scheme like ACC in New Zealand.

"When something tragic like this happens, you are supported to get through it.”

ACC has supported Kavana with financial support.

Due to it being an accidental death and since Kavana has a dependent she receives 80 percent of Lance’s salary until Harley-Jean is 16. Harley-Jean receives this compensation from when she is 16 to 18.

“The support from ACC has been amazing. The financial support and the way they have cared for me has been great.

"I'm not working because I don’t want Harley-Jean to be raised by strangers in day care. So ACC have made it possible for me to look after my baby.” Kavana says the counselling support from ACC has been crucial in her recovery.

Harley blows Lance's ashes box a kiss

Credit: Julia Sabugosa

Finding hope for the future

Kavana says Harley-Jean gets her out of bed every morning. They go for walks with their dog and feed the ducks at the local park. Kavana loves showing her daughter the places that Lance took her on their dates.

Kavana has been Harley-Jean’s rock through a time of grieving. They have got through it together.

“She is the coolest little person and she has this little attitude on her. She is the light in my life,” she says.

“Harley looks just like Lance as well, which I love because every day she reminds me of her daddy. It reminds me that he lives on in her and that he’s with us.”

Kavana is looking forward. She loves photography and wants to work towards a career as a forensic photographer.

When Lance was in the final moments of his life, Kavana made a commitment to her fiancé. “I promised him that his baby girl would be happy and healthy forever and I will fulfil that promise every day.”

Kavana and Harley look out at a lake

Credit: Julia Sabugosa

Ride Forever

  • Ride Forever is an ACC initiative. It is aimed at giving riders sound information and access to training, so they can make better choices.
  • More than 28,000 motorcyclists have completed Ride Forever courses.
  • Our data shows that riders who complete a course are 27 percent less likely to make a crash-related injury claim.
  • Kevin Williams is speaking at this year’s Shiny Side Up online event, Sunday 10th April in partnership with Waka Kotahi. Learn more here: Shiny Side Up
  • Ride Forever

Learning to Drive

  • A Driver on a Learner’s Licence has to be supervised by someone over 25, and the supervisor must have held their Full Licence for two years or more.

For more information click below:

Learning to drive

Road to Zero

In support of the Road to Zero strategy, ACC is committed to joining all New Zealanders in helping to reduce annual deaths and serious injuries on our roads by 40 percent by 2030.

We’re here to support everyone who needs us and we have some special programmes in place to keep people safe on our roads, including Ride Forever.

Keeping safe on the road