May 7th, 2012
10:28 AM ET

Report: 'Hang on! I love you!' hang glider flier's boyfriend screamed

Hang-gliding enthusiasts gathered at the site of a fellow flier's death over the weekend as witnesses recalled the last words the victim's boyfriend yelled during her deadly flight over British Columbia.

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.

Fellow hang glider pilots, most of whom had never met the woman, got together in the clearing on Saturday, erecting a cross and planting a cherry tree as a memorial, Canada's CTV reported.

"We embraced her as our own, and so because of that, the deep sorrow is like losing someone close to us," said a tearful Jason Warner, a safety officer for the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada.

Meanwhile, Nicole McLearn, a witness to the accident, told Post Media News in Canada that Godinez-Avila and her boyfriend were "joyous" as they watched other hang gliders take to the air that Saturday.

Another witness, Frederic Bourgault, said Godinez-Avila flashed a big smile as she prepared for the tandem flight with instructor William Jonathan Orders.

Both witnesses said as Orders and Godinez-Avila ran for their takeoff, something looked wrong, according to the Post report.

“Oh, she’s hanging low,” Bourgault told the Post he said out loud.

McLearn thought their silhouettes "didn't look right," according to the report.

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.

"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.

Back at the launch site, Godinez-Avila's boyfriend watched her fall, according to the Post report.

“Lenami! Hang on! I love you!” he screamed, the Post reported.

She was in the air about 30 seconds before she fell.

After the flight, Orders was arrested and charged with obstructing justice. Police say he swallowed a memory card possibly containing video of the fatal accident.

He was granted bail on Friday after posting bond of 5,750 Canadian dollars, said Neil MacKenzie, communications counsel with the province's criminal justice branch.

The recording has since passed and is now in police custody, MacKenzie said. He declined comment on whether anything retrievable could be taken from the card.

Orders is expected to be released from custody on Monday, CTV reported.

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Filed under: Canada • Courts • Crime • World
soundoff (284 Responses)
  1. Nick

    One word here people......PARACHUTE! I'd like to read the story from the next guy in line!

    May 7, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dan

    They need to investigate this from a 1,000 foot view.

    May 7, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Linda

    Such a shame. My thoughts go out to the boyfriend and family. The instructor should be responsible. In this line of work, he should be diligent in doing a safety check. Experience means nothing when you are negligent.

    May 7, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Powerplane1

    Question for the HG pilot: Is there no way to make a HG descend rapidly but under control, similar to a "slip" in a fixed wing plane?

    May 7, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      No, you need a rudder to perform a slip.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Evonix

    At least she died doing what she loved.

    May 7, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • borysd

      It was her first flight...

      May 7, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • brilliant

      I'm sure she LOVED falling 1000 feet.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chupa Cabra

      Really? It was her first time, the reason she was riding tandem. Falling 1000 feet is pretty effed up.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • drew716

      This was her first flight and unfortunately her last.. i wouldnt say she died doing something she loved

      May 7, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • JR

      "At least she died doing what she loved."
      No. No one dies doing what they love. The fall guaranteed that she no longer loved anything she was doing.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Victor

      You mean freefalling through the air? I'm not sure she loved that.

      May 7, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Gary

    Wasn't hooked in. It happens. A terrible tragedy.
    This was a pilot error, and the instructor pilot will probably be brought up on charges. Just a little to late to do any good.

    May 7, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jeff

    That's too bad, Such a waste. Maybe there should be a safety checklist completed prior to each flight now? maybe?

    May 7, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred Flinstone

      There is, it's called a 'hang check'. With the glider on the ground, you hand in your straps. If you lay on the ground, you are not hooked in. Procedure wasn't followed. – Former HG instructor.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Michael

    @Nick – A parachute would not be effective from 1000 feet.

    May 7, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeff

      What is the basis of your comment? Skydivers use Automatic Activation Devices (AAD) that deploy the reserve parachute at about 750 feet and have saved many lives.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zeke

      1000 ft, – You really are the "Tool of the Day". Of course it would help.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. borysd

    The incompetent flight instructor William Jonathan Orders should spend 10 years in jail!

    May 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy Daniel

      This is a tough story, and I think there are realy two separate issues. The instructor probably made a terrible mistake – forgetting to hook up her harness properly. Even though a woman died, I don't quite see what jail would accomplish. Unlike drunk driving, where you make a decision to break the law and sometimes kill some though you didn't mean to, this is a bit different, because if it was just a horrible accident he is not a danger to society and you can't make an example of someone to deter other people from making mistakes.

      The issue of tampering with evidence is different. I'm going to assume now that the memory card shows that he made a tragic error, not that he did anything intentional. He should be punished for that, but remember that swallowing the memory card did not cause her death.

      It does seem that he would be fully civilly liable for damages for her death.

      May 7, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. BillyD1953

    Life is too precious to be risked so lightly for foolish and dangerous activities. There are so many fulfilling, enjoyable, and engaging activities that one can experience without putting one's life at increased or significant risk. Why do people always think everything will be okay no matter what risks they take? Just because a bunch of other numbskulls do these crazy things doesn't mean they're safe or worthwhile. Some people are just biologically programmed to take excessive risks. Don't be misled by them into doing the same dumb things. Stay safe. Enjoy your precious life and have a long and happy one–without taking crazy risks.

    May 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • drew716

      I agree.. it's risky enough getting in the car each day to drive on the roads with idiots.... thrill seeking gives a rush to people.. rock climbers, parachuting, bungee jumping, etc.. do it enough and you're numbers eventually going to be up!

      May 7, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Life is too precious to be risked so lightly for foolish and dangerous activities."""

      I so agree with you. I've investigated accidents like this for over 30 years. Life is risky enough without actually actively tempting fate.

      Competence is an important variable here. You are essentially betting your life that the person you're entrusting is competent. After 30+ years of doing this, I am simply not willing to EVER make that kind of bet.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • blah9999

      Like video games and watching tv?

      May 7, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • lynne

      I bet you're a hoot.

      If no human had ever taken a risk then we wouldn't have cars, planes, a space program, effectice surgery, chemotherapy or organ transplantation, just to name a few. NO, I am not putting hang gliding on their level of importance, I am just saying that risk is a part of life, and I for one think that as long as safety protocol is followed (which in this case it was not) then sometimes a risk is acceptable.

      And to another comment, riding in a car is not just "enough" of a risk. It is more of a risk than almost any "risky" thrill out there.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just Me

      Because we all want to experience exciting things and we put our trust into those who are supposed to know the rules and safety guidelines. This young lady left her home that day expecting to return because the pilot was supposed to know and do his job. He didn't. Personally, I would love to go hang-gliding. But, there is not a place near me that I can go to. But, should I ever decide to go, I will know ahead of time what the correct procedures are and if by chance I end up with a pilot like this one, then I myself will know not to leave the ground until all of the safety issues are met. People don't want to live in a hole like a hermit. Some people like to get out and have fun.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • creek

      are you serious? life is precious because of the opportunities to love and explore everything this world has to offer. if you have never done anything remotely risky i'd say you haven't really lived a full life. and i don't think you can comment as such. you don't know the joy or feeling of courage or rush of excitement that awakens every single one of your senses. you're wasting your precious life by playing it safe. we all die. so why not go out and enjoy yourself. plus, hang gliding and the like are not that "extreme." you know why? physics. have you ever been on a plane? same concept. of course, there's always human error. but that can happen anywhere. don't be such a bore.

      May 7, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Williams

      """If no human had ever taken a risk then we wouldn't have cars, planes, a space program, effectice surgery, chemotherapy or organ transplantation, just to name a few. """

      You're missing the point. We're talking about taking unnecessary risks (and often not really knowing the magnitude of such risk – eg., competence levels) for entertainment/thrill purposes.

      We're not talking about calculated risks for advancing human progress.

      May 7, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Williams

      """you're wasting your precious life by playing it safe."""

      On the other hand, you may easily die while getting your rush.

      There are other ways to enjoy life other than risking death.

      May 7, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Deist

    Parasailing and hang gliding are fun but each person should make sure their own equipment is secure and double check the experience and motivation of the pilot when going tandem.

    May 7, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tom

    Very sad. Thats what check lists are for.

    May 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff Williams

    """Parasailing and hang gliding are fun but each person should make sure their own equipment is secure"""

    Even that is not enough. Besides, most people do not know what is supposed to be and what isn't. That is the operator's job.

    Besides equipment, the operator's judgment is also a major factor. How do you check for that?

    May 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • lynne

      I think that was the part about checking the qualification, etc. of the person who has your life in their hands. Any reputable place should provide you with training and a safety briefing and checklist. If none of these things are done, leave and do not follow through with the risk.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Darkguardian1314

    Yes, there can be data retrieved from the SD card assuming he didn't try to bend or snap it when he swallowed it. The chip inside is where the data is. The outside is just a plastic package to interface with the outside world. Whether it was an accident or not, the instructor's actions is bizarre. He needs to show personal responsibly. When doing something dangerous, the student's life is literally in the instructor's hands. Last time something like this happened, was a military defendant grabbing and folding a 3.5 floppy disk in half during interrogation. The Feds were able to recover the data on the damaged disk using early data recovery.

    May 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. banasy©

    This is such a sad story.
    Condolences to her family and to her boyfriend.

    May 7, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
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