Kyäni co-founder, president discuss ‘incomprehensible’ tragedy but vow to move forward ‘as Jim and Kirk would want’
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IDAHO FALLS — The man who became president of Kyäni four months ago says Jim and Kirk Hansen would want the company to move forward despite the plane crash that claimed their lives and seven others Saturday.
Travis Garza spoke with EastIdahoNews.com Tuesday afternoon alongside Carl Taylor, the man who co-founded Kyäni with the Hansen brothers in 2007. Jim and Kirk were on a hunting trip in South Dakota with their father, James Sr., and nine other family members when their plane crashed shortly after take-off. Nine people were killed, and three others are recovering.
“As anyone can imagine, it’s nothing that you could ever expect. It’s incomprehensible what has happened,” Garza says. “The emotions are very, very hard at this point, and everybody is dealing with those emotions in different ways.”
Garza spoke with Kirk Hansen for the last time Saturday around 6:30 a.m. They held daily meetings or phone calls to talk about the business, new ideas and “how we could help other people around the world.”
That evening, he received a phone call about a plane crash. Details were sketchy, and Garza gathered with others to await official information.
“I think all of us were praying and hoping that we were hear the news that everybody had survived,” Garza says, holding back tears. “Unfortunately, we heard what happened, and it was very tough to take.”
Taylor was headed out of town when he started getting phone calls about the crash. He turned around to come back to Idaho Falls, and by the time he arrived home, he had confirmation that some of his best friends were dead.
“Jim and Kirk were excellent businessmen, and we lost some great family men and some great families,” Taylor says. “They were like brothers to me, and I love them and their families like they’re my own family. It’s a terrible loss.”
Kyäni has business partners and employees in 60 countries around the world. Garza and his team began calling them to announce the news.
The new president began working for the company in August after the Hansens and Taylor thought Kirk needed some assistance
“We had discussions about being prepared for any catastrophe or crisis. Part of that strategy was to build the best team we could that would go on indefinitely,” Taylor says. “I don’t know if it was coincidence or just good luck, but we brought Travis on board to help Kirk.”
Garza has known the Hansens for more than 20 years, and they had often spoken about working together, which they started doing last fall.
“I don’t know if you believe in divine inspiration,” Garza says as Taylor quickly interrupts with, “I know two people who did.”
Garza continues, “But we connected on all the things we needed to move forward with. And now, to know the position we’re in, we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Garza and Taylor say it’s important to focus on others who perished – including Kyle Naylor and Tyson Dennert, sons-in-law of Kirk and Rebecca Hansen. Thomas Long, a son-in-law of Jim and Leann, was hurt.
“The Naylors, the Dennerts and the Longs have raised some wonderful families. I miss Jim and Kirk and I love the rest of the families,” Taylor says. “Their wives are amazing, strong women who have been very active and very influential in our community in so many ways.”
Garza and Taylor say the tragedy has brought their business partners and employees closer together, and all are more committed to fulfilling the company’s mission. They’re sharing stories and recalling fond memories of the Hansens.
“I can’t tell you how many people have told me of the unconditional love they had for people,” Garza says. “I’ve heard over and over and over, ‘They helped me when, they provided support when’ — things that I never knew about. It’s amazing to see what these gentlemen have done just to give back to help when people were in need.”
In lieu of flowers, Kyäni business partners are contributing to Caring Hands Kyäni, a charity program designed to help people around the world living in poverty.
Locals who wish to help can make a donation to the Hansen Family Memorial GoFundMe account. Rebecca and LeAnn Hansen will not be receiving any of these funds; rather, money collected will be given to the young widows affected by the tragedy. It is the only authorized GoFundMe account associated with the Hansen family.
“Despite these hard times, we resolve to continue to do good and work together as a company, a family and team,” Taylor says. “That’s what Jim and Kirk would want.”
Garza adds, “Our mission at Kyäni is to give hope and to help people live better lives through wellness and opportunity. ‘Hope’ is a big word, and I think that’s what Jim and Kirk and these families have given us right now to move forward. That’s what we plan to do at Kyäni.”
Our attorneys tell us we need to put this disclaimer in stories involving fundraisers: EastIdahoNews.com does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries.