May 15th, 2012
10:15 AM ET

Hang glider pilot apologizes for deadly flight

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.

Victim's boyfriend screamed, "Hang on! I love you!"

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Filed under: Canada • Crime
soundoff (119 Responses)
  1. Steve

    After swallowing that memory card, he probably took a dump he won't soon forget...

    May 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Meh, one time a pop can tab broke off and fell into my pop and I accidentally swallowed it. Didn't feel a thing.

      May 15, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Garsneezo

      Ah hah.... I see what you did there. Nice.

      May 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • TAK

      Jim, I find that truly unbelievable... that someone still calls soft drinks "pop".

      May 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Liz in Seattle

    Jesus. He could at least have gotten her name right in his statement.

    May 15, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      You have more faith than I that numerous typos haven't been made along the way.

      May 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • A. N. Perspective

      It's VERY likely he DID get it right.

      Odds are CNN got it wrong. Why? Because if they quoted him accurately (meaning HE got it wrong), they should have included ("sic)" in his quote to indicate that they accurately quoted his mistake. Either way, they failed in proper editing by either a) not including the "sic" or b) mistyping her name in his quote.

      So which is more likely? He AND CNN made a mistake, or just CNN made a mistake?

      May 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kris

    "You shouldn't be the one to make sure you are hooked in correctly on a rollercoaster, should you?"

    No, but since there's a possibility I could die while riding it, I sure am going to make sure I'm hooked in correctly. Yes, it's THEIR job, but it's MY life, so I'm checking too.

    May 15, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • MaggieJS

      Amen!

      May 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Agreed...it is their job, especially with a first time flyer that likely has no clue and is placing her life in your hands. I agree, Kris, it is their job and their responsibility and they are to blame.

      May 15, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • themekings

      The gentlemen is rightfully regretful for the event. He never meant to harm the young lady. It's obvious they were negligent in their pre-flight equipment inspections. Put yourself in his shoes and understand he's going to see this horror play through his mind everyday for the rest of his life.

      Thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the victim. I'm deeply sorry for your lose. I couldn't imagine the feelings and emotions your family must have.

      May 15, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • esoteric1

      The d ring is on the back and it would be difficuilt to know...also if you are not familiar with wearing a full body harness it is something you would not think of...having the harness on would give someone the impression of protection. It was his fault

      May 15, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. lier

    he is just sorry he got cought trying to hide the proof of his failing to make sure she was attached to the glider.

    May 15, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • fritz

      I agree. He swallowed the memory card as 'panic reaction'? Baloney, he was trying to save himself from blame. He realized moments afterward that it was a totally dumb act to try to hide evidence of this kind. That was the panic reaction. He's only sorry for his own culpability and future liability. Let him serve some hard time for the cover-up and then pay out money to the dead woman's family for the rest of his life.

      May 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ocho

    As someone above said, it sounds like criminally negligent homicide. You do something (or fail to do something) that directly leads to someone's death, and that any reasonable person would know could/would lead to death.

    May 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • ricardo1968

      I don't hang glide thank goodness, but this sounds exactly like something I would do. I forget stuff all the time, like really important stuff. I would hate to be in this poor man's shoes. I would rather be the person who fell.

      May 15, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lars Babaganoosh

    Best part is that it was an accident that would at most be a civil suit for wrongful death but by swallowing the card it is now criminal. Yeah, he may have faced civil charges but that would just be money he or his insurance paid, now he could face some jail time.

    That is if the canadian system is like the U.S. system. I could be totally wrong but who gives a sh1t about Canada anyways.

    May 15, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • GoodNeighbor

      I care about Canada. I like and respect Canada and am glad they are our neighbors.

      May 15, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • KenC

      There's no such word as "anyways", Einsten! Canada is a beautiful country, which is the reason most Americans hate it! They are jealous.

      May 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vicki

      Canadians?

      May 15, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RusTnuts

    After he and his lawyer decided that his bs story about him having a strange habit of swallowing memory cards for fun wasn't going to wash...they went with the old classic standby ploy....oop's, I'm really soooorrrrry.

    May 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mr Dalloway

    Now off to prison with ye.

    May 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tom

    Speculation here about negligence is a bunch of nonsense. Insufficient information in the article to know exactly what did or did not happen. She could have been hooked in, he could have checked it, she could have unhooked to rearrange a strap, he could have launched before she got rehooked, etc etc etc. But hey, never let anything as trivial as a lack of facts mess up a good post, I always say.

    May 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • dion

      The the only fact is he SWALLOWED – what does that mean to you?

      May 15, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • BillyBaroo

      Good point Tom... way too much speculation, but that is sortof the nature of these blogs because you never ever are given all of the facts.

      May 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • ocho

      You don't like speculation? Speculation is a bunch of nonsense, is it? Your entire post is speculation–"She could have been hooked in, he could have checked it, she could have unhooked to rearrange a strap, he could have launched..." Your post is nonsense.

      May 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • jaintn

      He swallowed the memory card. Who needs to speculate? He swallowed the memory card. He tried to destroy evidence and hinder the investigation. His actions were not the actions of someone who is blameless. He messed up and knew he messed up and tried to hide the fact.

      May 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Tom..."I failed" and "swallowed the memory card"...one can reasonably infer with a reasonable likelihood the culpability of Mr. Orders. These "assumptions" aren't really unreasonable or out on a limb to any reasonably intelligent individual. They aren't being pulled out of thin air.

      May 15, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. dion

    Yeah hes sorry alright – he swallowed cause he knew he screwed up big time. Its all excuses after the fact. He got too used to the routine of NOT double checking or even TRIPLE checking the safety of his occupant which depends on his expertise. He musta forgot that talent and was just winging it I guess. If he does not get charged he should be banned forever to practice this trade. Total disgrace and a lesson to all that this is not some game but real life and people die when you screw up!

    May 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jaintn

    Shame on him for being SUCH a coward. That poor girl. I can't even imagine what a horrifying death that was. His complacency with the job is what killed her. I doubt he has a choice in the matter of whether or not to end his hangliding business. As if anyone would ever put their trust in him again. His knee jerk reaction was to cover his butt. Selfish, shameful behavior.

    May 15, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. GeorgeBos95

    As a fixed-wing pilot, sloppy is the best thing I can say about what he did. Considering you're hanging from the harness on a hang-glider, to have failed to ensure she was properly clipped in is just mind boggling.

    Mistakes in the air often lead to trouble, sometimes to death. There aren't many things to pay attention to in prepping a hang-glider, so I'm at a loss to understand how any rational, careful individual could make such a gross error.

    I appreciate his remorse, but it's too little, too late. He cost a woman her life, and "sorry" simply doesn't cut it. Don't know how they handle it in Canada, but in the States he'd be looking at serious charges, and the threat of civil suits.

    Good luck to him... he's gonna need it.

    May 15, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bubba

    I'd never go up in one of those things after reading this. I'm going to see if we can ban them from the local airports. A friend of mine was killed in one twenty years ago, but I didn't realize they ALL crashed. That guy did us all a favor by showing what a cheap, deadly racket he was running.

    May 15, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim

      You are a fool

      May 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. keith

    He was responsible, and his lazyness cost a young woman her life. Recind his permsiion to ever fly again.

    May 15, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Shane

    I believe this guy wanted to see what happens when someone dies in that manner.

    May 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
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