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. athiest

    Should be a law that someone in addition to the pilot goes through a safety list like being strapped in prior to taking off in an instructor-student situation.

    It's unfathomable that someones forgetfulness ended anothers life. If someone else had been there to run the check, this woman would be alive today. She probably had no idea that this required being strapped in. It's not like rollercoasters which people go to many times over their life and are very familiar and know to check the bar. It was her first time and his responsibility to ensure her safety.

    May 15, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. zma1013

    Here's what I don't understand... if he wanted to destroy the memory card, why no just smash it? Like smash it with your shoe or something? They are tiny little pieces of plastic. Why swallow it? He obviously wasn't thinking at all.

    May 15, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      He couldn't smash the memory card with his shoe. The youg lady pulled his shoes off as she was clinging to him and slid down his body. They found his shoes near her body.

      May 15, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John the Electrician

    This has sent shockwaves thru the Hang Gliding industry. This weekend one of our US instructors build a rig to simulate what happened. The conclusion was that it's a no win situation. Mabe there is going to be manditory training for passangers before flying. Something will come of this to make everyone safer so she didn't die for nothing.

    May 15, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      What kind of regulations govern "tandem" training in hang gliders? I It's a sad sad story.

      May 15, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. something isnt flying

    He blamed a poor innocent 12 yr old for him swallowing the card?!! My condolences to Lenami Godinez-Avila's family.

    May 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • w5cdt

      Not exactly..listen again. He said he was already stressed because of his daughter. Should not have flown if he was stressed. This is why pilots practice an IMSAFE checklist.

      May 15, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Not what he said at all.

      May 15, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan S

      I don't think it's unfair to say Mr. Orders blamed his daughter for him eating the card. All-in-all, the man did a respectable job of admitting fault. Unlike politicians who go through the motions of an admission, all the while qualifying that admission as much as possible.

      May 15, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • elsemat

      @ something isnt flying... Where are you getting that from? It doesnt say that anywhere in the article... He clearly stated that HE swallowed it, infront of his daughter. He didn't blame her for it.

      May 15, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John in Olympia

    The guy's criminal penalty will probably be similar to someone whose road accident was caused by his falling asleep at the wheel. It will be much less that if he was a drunk driver who killed someone on the highway, since the drunk's negligence could be reasonably foreseen. In the pilot's case it was a momentary oversight that can and does happen to anyone. Just ask a private pilot if he has ever taken off forgetting to remove the pitot tube cover. Certainly the pilot's actions are gross negligence, but nowhere near the level of the highway drunk or even Conrad Murray.

    The guy's civil liability for the wrongful death will be much less in Canada than the USA. Canada focuses on actual economic damages. If the woman had a child to raise, this could be considerable. But Canadian courts won't award much for pain and suffering, loss of affection etc.

    May 15, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • octopus

      Probably nothing. Most likely she signed a paper that she's aware this activity may result in a serious injury or death.

      May 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • eroteme

      In the U.S. the victim's family would soon be on the phone with an attorney to see what their options are. Maybe an attorney or attorneys would contact the vfictim's family to explain how this misfortune can result in a jackpot winning for the family, and, of course, a bit for themselves as well.which they would not immediately mention.

      May 15, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Khloe Kardasian

    so when is he going to explain why he ate the go-pro camera recording chip

    May 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kerry

    Accidents happen in every sport. I scuba dive and know the dangers but choose to do it anyway. We take risks every day of our lives. There are no guarantees in life, it's a dangerous world.

    May 15, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tim

    Very sad. I believe it was an accident, but still, you need to have a deterrent so that other pilots are not so lazy with their pre-flight checks. If you throw the book at this guy and make a public example of him, maybe others will be more cautious and other lives will be saved. Sometimes fear is a better motivator than good intentions. Dont get me wrong, I'm not saying he tried to hurt her, but obviously he didnt try that hard to not hurt her either.

    May 15, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. matthew

    She would of fallen for approxiamately 10 seconds hitting terminal velocity is about a 1000 ft apprx. 120 mph. Very sad situatuation that could of been prevented.

    May 15, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. nile istic

    this man needs forgiveness.

    May 15, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • ronniq

      No, he needs something else

      May 15, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Surgerytime

    Dude, you swallowed the chip. You should fry

    May 15, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. eroteme

    Sounds a bit like Scott the CEO who lied in his resume, but instead of admitting he lied, he said he 'padded' his resume.

    May 15, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ronniq

    My wife caught me looking at poXXrn on my PC and I tried to swallow the 100GB hard drive in my panic.

    May 15, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Michael

    To my knowledge, this is the third time this has happened. Before this it was in Brazil, and before that it was in New Zealand. 3 times the passenger was not hooked in, out of thousands of flights. Obviously safety procedures were skipped, namely a hang check or a walk though hang check, where the harness straps are checked and THAT BOTH HARNESSES ARE ATTACHED TO THE GLIDER.

    May 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jrg

    Do we know what actually happened? Was the harness fastened incorrectly or not at all? Does the harness have a redundant system or are they a single point of failure? When the pilot realized they were in trouble what did he do? I would assume the proper action would be to go into a dive to lower the difficulty of her hanging on and pull out low enough to lessen the fall if she could not and attempt to land anywhere ASAP.

    May 15, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
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