The pilot of a tandem hang glider from which a British Columbia woman fell to her death last month has apologized to the woman's family and said he won't return to the skies again.
"I failed in such a major way," William Jonathan Orders said in a statement he read Monday. "I want so much to relive that day and have it turn out differently."
Lenami Godinez-Avila, 27, was on her first flight on a hang glider on April 28, when she fell 1,000 feet to her death in a forest clearing near Agassiz, British Columbia.
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.
"She was very brave and I'm sure loved by all," Orders said. "Lemani was someone's daughter and I find that especially difficult to deal with."
Orders said his own 12-year-old daughter was there when the accident happened, adding to the stress that led him to swallow a memory card containing video of the flight, something he called "my panicked action."
"I disclosed to police myself shortly afterwards what I had done with the memory card, as a result of the overwhelming stress I was under," he said. "I realize that my actions caused this matter to drag out unnecessarily for Lemani's family and friends, and for the police and for that I am deeply regretful."
Orders was charged with obstruction of justice for swallowing the memory card, which is now in the possession of police. They have not said if any evidence has been recovered from it. Orders is free after posting bond of 5,750 Canadian dollars.
Orders, 50, also apologized to those involved in hang gliding for the "negative attention" the incident had brought to the sport.
"My only true intention in operating my tandem hang gliding business was to introduce new people and bring new pilots to the sport which has been my passion for 20 years," he said. "I have deep regrets that I may have in fact caused the opposite effect.
"I have concluded that I cannot and will not return to hang gliding," Orders said.
Orders did not take questions after reading his statement.