May 3rd, 2012
08:58 PM ET

Glider pilot accused of swallowing evidence awaits hearing

Lenami Godinez-Avila had just started a tandem hang-gliding flight with an instructor - a gift from her boyfriend - when she fell from the glider, plunging hundreds of feet to her death Saturday in a heavily wooded part of western Canada, authorities say.

Investigators trying to determine why she fell are accusing the instructor of trying to hide what might be a key piece of evidence - a possible onboard video recording of the flight - in his digestive tract.

William Jonathan Orders, 50, was arrested Saturday and charged this week with obstructing justice, accused of swallowing a memory card from a video camera that accompanied the pair on the flight near Agassiz, British Columbia, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.

Orders is scheduled to appear Friday afternoon in provincial court in Chilliwack for a hearing to determine whether he can be released on bail. But it’s unclear if it will be postponed - as it was Wednesday - if authorities haven’t retrieved the memory card, said Neil MacKenzie, communications counsel with the province’s criminal justice branch.

X-rays confirmed the card was in Orders’ body, and authorities as of Thursday morning still were waiting for the object to pass, RCMP Constable Tracy Wolbeck said. Investigators hope to recover the object.

“It’s difficult to speculate” whether the card will have retrievable video, Wolbeck said. “We’re just going to have to wait and see.”

The fall happened near Mount Woodside, from which Orders and the 27-year-old Godinez-Avila took off, more than 50 miles east of Vancouver.

A witness, Nicole McLearn, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that when the glider was in the air, Godinez-Avila appeared to be wearing her harness, but it wasn’t attached to the glider. The passenger clung to Orders before she fell, McLearn said.

"He was horizontal but she was now hanging vertically, and it looked like in essence she had him in a bear hug around the chest area," McLearn told the CBC.

"I could see her starting to slip down his body ... past the waist, down the legs. Finally she got to the feet and tried to hang on and obviously couldn't hang on for that much longer and let go, tearing off the tandem pilot's shoes in the process," McLearn said.

Jason Warner, safety director for the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada, told the CBC on Sunday that he talked to Orders shortly after the incident on Saturday afternoon.

"He tried to grab her - he tried to grab her harness, everything he could, wrapped his legs around her - and she slipped down his legs and then fell," Warner told the CBC.

Godinez-Avila’s boyfriend was videotaping the flight from the ground, the RCMP’s Wolbeck said. She said she couldn’t say how much of the flight was on the boyfriend’s camera, but the RCMP has the footage.

Godinez-Avila’s body was found Saturday after an extensive search of the wooded area, the RCMP said.

Orders told police he had swallowed the memory card of the onboard camera, Wolbeck said. When asked whether Orders explained why he had done so, Wolbeck said she couldn’t comment further on conversations he’d had with investigators.

The RCMP said it and the Coroners Service of British Columbia are investigating the incident.

“She became detached from the hang glider and fell, but how she came to be detached is what we’re still working on,” Barb McLintock, coroner with the Coroners Service of British Columbia, said Thursday.

A call on Thursday seeking comment from Orders’ attorney, Laird Cruickshank, was not immediately returned.

Orders is the owner and operator of Vancouver Hang Gliding. The business’ website said it charges $210 plus tax for an introductory tandem flight on weekends, and $190 plus tax on weekdays.

For $30 extra, the website says, customers can get “video footage of your flight in memory card.”

Godinez-Avila lived in Canada for nine years, having come to the country with her parents from Mexico, Wolbeck said.

Pat Denevan, longtime hang-gliding instructor and the owner of San Francisco Hang Gliding Center and the Mission Soaring Center in California, said people who go hang gliding wear a harness. A strap from the harness is then clipped into a main “hang loop” on the glider’s frame, using a mountaineering carabiner, he said.

A strap also is clipped to a backup loop, Denevan said. The straps are able to take thousands of pounds of force, and gliders are “good for six times the force of gravity,” he said.

“It’s up to the instructor to check that he’s hooked in and that his passenger is hooked in before he takes off,” Denevan said of the typical tandem hang-gliding flight. “This is standard procedure.”

McLintock said that if investigators determine Godinez-Avila’s death was an accident, the coroner’s service would take the lead in the investigation. Investigators are looking into whether pilot error or equipment failure were factors, and experts in the hang-gliding field probably will examine the equipment, she said.

After investigators determine what happened, the coroner’s service hopes to make “recommendations both reasonable and practical to prevent future deaths in similar circumstances,” she said.

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Filed under: Canada • Courts • Crime
soundoff (336 Responses)
  1. Dr.Hollar

    Gallows humor is made by the person affected by the dramatic situation, not spectators

    May 4, 2012 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  2. HerpaDerp

    Trololol – I guess people dont realize its not good to feed the trolls.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  3. mommajam

    This is a horrible nightmarish tragedy. It reminds me of the Cliffhanger movie with Sylvester Stallone. I couldn't sleep after I heard this story on the news the other night. I can't stop thinking about that poor girl.
    Condolences to the family.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • kingkong

      u should stay away from the TV...

      May 4, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  4. Camelspyder

    An obvious neglect to conduct pre-flight inspections. This incompetent "instructor" does not have the integrity to take responsibility for his own mistake. He should be jailed and his business shut down.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Seraphim0

      Because the boyfriend has nothing at all to do with it?

      May 4, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • wcb2009

      Andgo to jail and be sued for everything he owns

      May 4, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  5. shanghaiman8915

    a court will allow the police to examine his dodo then he will be in deep dodo

    May 4, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Kerrybiantulip

      Dodo? Are they no longer extinct or something and the instructor has one? Fascinating.. And here I thought they were talking about feces. Now I can't wait to see it! Pics please.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  6. YouGottaBeKiddingMe

    It was new to YOU. You could always call a waaaambulance. While the docs are pulling that memory card out of the pilot's they could be be pulling that big bug out of yours.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  7. danabashed

    a rather strange thing for the pilot to swallow the chip! Why couldn't he just toss it overboard. The chances of them finding it are slim to none...cops are too stupid in most cases!

    May 4, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      He probably swallowed the chip after coming back to the ground, not while he was up in the air.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  8. Tonyb

    there's a business that needs to be closed due to incompetence

    May 4, 2012 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  9. claudia

    how sad

    May 4, 2012 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  10. Howard

    Wow.. X-rays confirm the memory card is in his digestive track. Well there's no question he was trying to conceal and hide some negligence and or wrongdoing.. May she rest in peace, not the best way to go so to speak.. Plunging hundreds of feet knowing the end result.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  11. Potrzebie

    Those flash memory cards can be pretty resilient. I've had a couple go through the washer and dryer without affecting the data, and the card still works fine.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

    He started fondling her, and she protested, so he let her fall. A clear case of murder, which will be borne out on the video, should they recover it. There is actually a very good chance that the video will be recoverable, and this beast will spend the rest of his days in lament for being a POS.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mammy


    May 4, 2012 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  14. Doug

    Tragic. My condolences to the family.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  15. Valerie

    The truth will come out in the end. : )

    May 4, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
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