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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

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Safeguard Magazine

Aftermath — Neil Bond

Veronique Bond, 38, was killed in March 2015 when a truck carrying shingle reversed over her at a road works site near Te Kauwhata. She was riding her motorcycle on her way to class at Manukau Institute of Technology. PETER BATEMAN talked to her husband Neil Bond.

What was Veronique studying at MIT?

She was just starting her third year of a degree in applied management, with majors in marketing and communication. She was planning on working in PR. She’d been top of her class the previous two years, but when she started she wasn’t even sure if she would be up to doing a degree. She was French – she grew up in Noumea. She’d left school with minimal qualifications. So she began study for a diploma and she smashed it that first year. Her tutors said she was well capable of going for the degree, so she did.

How did you meet?

V had done lots of sales rep jobs, and one of her clients was a friend of mine who ran a desktop publishing business. I was visiting and V came in and hit on me! Well, the feeling was pretty mutual. At the time of the accident our daughter Angelina was 5, and my stepson Shane was 17. We’d been living in Waiuku for four years and had only moved to our small farm in Maramarua a month earlier. We’d seen them setting up for the roadworks.

How experienced was V at motorcycling?

She was quite an accomplished rider. She’d done track work at Pukekohe, she’d ridden her old VT250 as far as Cape Reinga, and she bought her Suzuki SV650 in Otaki and rode it home from there. One weekend she rode it to Wellington to meet friends, and that’s a pretty decent hike on a bike. She was a cautious rider and always aware of the traffic around her. She was never one of those lane-splitters.

What contact did you have with the police at the time of the accident?

They were really good. Constable David Simpson from Huntly, he attended the scene and looked after V that whole afternoon. They advised me not to view her body. When a truck goes over someone … If I phoned him up now, three years later, he’d be happy to talk. I’ve also had terrific help from Victim Support. They’ve kept a close eye on me.

What work were you doing at the time?

I was managing engineering workshops for the Gough Group, one in Auckland and one in Rotorua. They were brilliant after V died. I felt like crap and I couldn’t continue in the role. The routine of life had changed. My little girl finishes school at 3pm, there was no way I could be in Rotorua overnight, so that instantly stopped. I changed roles and become a production coordinator. That removed a lot of stress.

How did your daughter react?

V’s death changed our lives dramatically. Angelina was fantastic. She’s very real, a lot like her mother with her French upbringing. When she has nightmares in the middle of the night she comes to me because she is afraid of me dying. She comes to make sure I am OK.

How did your stepson react?

He had a tough time. He turned 18 later that year. He was living with friends in Waiuku. He started pulling away, and I tried to keep him close but still give him space. It was tricky. The following year V’s younger sister came over, she was quite the wild child when she was young, just like V had been – free spirited, artistic, strong of mind. V was always the person she could talk to, V didn’t judge. So V’s death hit her hard. The four of us did a South Island road trip towing a small caravan. It was really good having that time together, we bonded again as a family. Shane was talking about joining the Navy, but on the way back north he asked if we could visit Weta Studio because animation was really his thing. He was like a kid in a candy store. He’s now studying for a degree in animation and is doing well.

And your own reaction at the time?

I was in my late 30s when we got married. To find someone and then have that person taken away, and there’s nothing you could have done about it. As a man you feel absolutely helpless because we are supposed to be able to protect our wife and children. It’s the she’ll be right thing. If just one out of about eight people had stopped and said hang on, this isn’t right, it wouldn’t have happened.

Why did you move to the Bay of Plenty?

After a year on the farm I realised that while I could do it, the dream V and I had together was gone. The house needed renovating, we weren’t loaded with money, and I was working full time. What kind of childhood would Angelina have? I’d just be working, working, working. My younger brother was in the Bay of Plenty and his children were a similar age. But I was confused about making the decision to move – your brain doesn’t work right. But I bought a section on the coast east of Maketu and a big American caravan for the two of us to live in. I like working with my hands. I was going to build. Build and heal.

What happened next?

For that first year in the Bay I was in survival mode. I really started feeling like crap. I started reading up on grief and realised I’d gone straight from shock to acceptance, because I had a little girl to look after. There were days when I felt lost and angry, where I wouldn’t touch any power tools and just take the dogs for a walk. I went onto the depression website. There are ten questions and I scored eight. OK, I have depression, I can work on that. I followed the recommendations, but it’s been very up and down. You find out a bit about yourself.

What’s happening now?

I was doing designs for a house, but then a redwood log house came up for tender in Papamoa, only 15 years old. I’ve always loved log houses. My younger brother is a licenced builder and he and I took a look at it. About a hundred people tendered for it. I got it because of the package I put together using MS Project: a time line, Gantt charts, health & safety policy, the contractors I’d have working on it with their names and contact details, and so on. We had the house re-sited back here. We got consent for our planned modifications in January 2018. It’s a new start.


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