The mother of Travis Kalanick, CEO of ride-hailing firm Uber, died in a boating accident on Friday (26 May) near Fresno, California, the company said. Bonnie Kalanick (71) died after the boat, she and her husband Donald (78) were riding, hit a rock and sank in Pine Flat Lake.
The couple were both injured in the collision and managed to make it to shore. They were later found by Fresno emergency rescue personnel who were searching for the boat by helicopter. According to the statement from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, Bonnie had died from her injuries when deputies reached the couple. Her husband was flown to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. He is in serious condition, according to reports.
“Last night Travis and his family suffered an unspeakable tragedy,” Uber said in a statement. “His mother passed away in a devastating boating accident near Fresno and his father is in serious condition. Our thoughts and prayers are with Travis and his family in this heartbreaking time.”
The sheriff’s office said an investigation into the incident is underway. An autopsy of Bonnie Kalanick is planned for Sunday. Crews will work to recover the boat from the lake and examine it to determine what led to the accident.
In an email sent to Uber employees, HR head Liane Hornsey called the accident an “unthinkable tragedy” and said “everyone in the Uber family knows how incredibly close Travis is to his parents.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family, and we wanted to let his Uber family know right away,” the email read. “I know we all want to do whatever we can to help, and I’ll communicate again as soon as there is something we can share.”
Raised in Southern California, Travis moved back with his parents to north of Los Angeles as he struggled to make a number of startups work before Uber was created.
“I was conflicted because I was happy he was home,” Bonnie told Recode’s Kara Swisher a few years ago. Swisher posted an excerpt describing her visit with Kalanick’s mother on Saturday which was cut from her Vanity Fair profile of the Uber boss. “He wore out a path walking in a circle of our kitchen and living room, always on the phone trying to make that company work.
“Working for a newspaper, I was used to sales rejection all the time, so I knew what that was like. But I had hope, since he is very determined and he will not back down when he felt he was right – he’s tenacious.”
Travis has not yet commented on the accident.
Earlier in May, he tweeted a photo of himself with his parents at the Kentucky Derby.
Two weeks ago, Kalanick also shared a Facebook post for Mother’s Day with photos of them together.
“As time goes on, I appreciate my mom, her infinite love and huge [heart] more and more,” he wrote. “Leaving Los Angeles (my home town) today, I already miss her. Happy Mother’s Day to the best mom out there. Love ya Mom.”
The tragic accident comes as Uber grapples with a series of controversies including a high-profile lawsuit with Waymo, allegations of sexism, sexual harassment and a toxic work culture and revelations of secret tools used to deceive law enforcement and track rival drivers.