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'She was my strength': Wyoming woman reflects on surviving motorcycle accident that killed her mother

Bonnie (left) and Bri (right)
Posted at 9:21 AM, Sep 18, 2023

BILLINGS — On Sept. 2, Bri Kumba and her mother, Bonnie Lara, were riding through the Beartooth Pass when tragedy struck. They were involved in a serious accident, that left Bri with a long physical and mental recovery ahead of her.

There's a strong bond between a mother and her child.

“My mom, she was my strength. She was my rock, you know? Literally, you met her and she didn’t make you feel like a stranger at all," Kumba told MTN News in a recent interview. "She would embrace pretty much everybody with a warm hug."

Bonnie (left) and Bri (right)
Bonnie (left) and Bri (right)

Kumba said her mom loved deeply.

"She was fiercely loyal. She loved you with her whole heart and you could feel it no matter what," Kumba said. “She guided me through my hard times. I could call her in the middle of the night, even if I felt sick, and she would come over. I’d be like, ‘No, you don’t have to.’ And she’d be like, ‘Nope, I’m coming over.’ And she would just lay there and just tickle my face until I fell asleep. Even though I’m a grown adult, she would do that."

According to Kumba, Lara had a great relationship with her grandchildren.

"She loved her grandsons. Fiercely loved them," Kumba said. "She would sit there and be like, ‘Hey, grandma’s hot, come cool grandma off.’ And the kids would just dump water over her and they thought it was the greatest thing ever."

Bonnie with family
Bonnie with family

The two spent much of their time together. They had planned an early-September trip up to Cody from their hometown of Casper, Wyoming to take a motorcycle ride through the Beartooth Pass into Red Lodge.

“My mom has done, in the past, she has done the Red Lodge Run. She has some friends that live in Cody," Kumba said. "So she had asked if I wanted to go to Cody with her and go up through the Beartooths, go ride through Red Lodge. And then we were going to stay the night in Cody."

On Sept. 2, they left their hotel room in Cody to head towards Red Lodge.

"I followed her up originally in my car and we had parked at the hotel. I had hopped on her motorcycle with her," Kumba said. "We were just riding up through there with some of her friends, and yeah, it just didn’t end exactly how we had planned."

The day quickly turned into Kumba's worst nightmare after the pair crashed on the pass. Her mother, Bonnie, did not survive the accident.

Bonnie Lara
Bonnie Lara

“Easily, she was my best friend," Kumba said. "Hands down my best friend."

After the accident, Kumba was taken to a Cody hospital but was then transferred to St. Vincent in Billings.

“(St. Vincent) definitely took good care of us," Kumba said. "We’re really grateful for that."

She’s now back home in Casper but is unable to walk due to her injuries.

"I have blown-out knees is what we’re finding out,” Kumba said. “It’s been really, really hard. Painful. Really painful. About a year recovery is what it’s going to be. I can’t walk, I have to have a wheelchair and help from my husband or family and friends."

Family photo
Family photo

That recovery entails surgery for Kumba.

"We have had to wait for the swelling to go down, and I have an abrasion on one of my knees. We’re waiting for that to heal up before my first surgery in October," Kumba said.

A GoFundMe has been set up for the family to assist with the unexpected expenses.

“I know my best friend had set up a GoFundMe while we were up in Billings," Kumba said. "So any type of support we can get, it’s definitely very much appreciated. Because I know mentally, physically, it’s going to be hard."

GoFundMe for Bri and family
GoFundMe for Bri and family

To view the GoFundMe, click here.

Thankfully, Kumba said she has a wonderful support system to lean on.

“I do have an 18-year-old sister who just graduated. So, you know, I’ve been trying to support her as well and we’ve been leaning on each other a lot. We do have another sister as well, so we’ve been leaning on each other," Kumba said. "My husband has been a massive support as well. My aunt, my cousins. My mother-in-law has been a massive support, and so has my father-in-law. Family and friends."

While Kumba faces her own recovery—a journey that’s just beginning—she says her top priority is ensuring her mom’s memory is not forgotten.

“She touched a lot of lives, you know? Just because she had such a big personality. That’s just who she was," Kumba said. "She just loved life and lived it to her fullest. I just want her to be remembered that way, that she did live life to her fullest, and loved to her fullest as well."

Bonnie (left) and Bri (right)
Bonnie (right) and Bri (left)