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. miguel

    Well, for such a horrific story, this man has done what few seem able to after their own involvement in criminal action or extreme negligence (and in this case, perhaps both): expressed sincere remorse and offered what seems to be a very earnest apology.

    There's still legal action to be pursued, and I hope he's appropriately punished, but I tip my hat to him for his act of decency. It will, not doubt, positively affect his sentencing.

    May 15, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. FactChecker

    It's a horrifying consequence for a mental mistake. Noone deserves this.

    May 15, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Fiona

    Did "stress" make him suddenly remember that he didn't do a safety check before taking off? Cuz' that is the ONLY reason he would think to swallow the memory card - to cover up his liability. This man is so low as to tro ll for sympathy by indirectly blaming the presence of his daughter? What a slime. I hope he does jail time.

    May 15, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Herbys

      No, It may also have been that when she got loose the glider became destabilized and, seeing chances that both should fall, he chose to let her go to save himself. And I can imagine other explanations. Don't jump to conclusions without evidence.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Paul

    Don't speculate on what happened without evidence. You are clueless what you would do in a situation like this because it is really, really terrible. I cannot imagine what he and she went through from the time they took off to the time she fell. It is really bad. Don't speculate on why he did what he did.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Michael

    I have never really swallowed a memory card when I was under stress I cannot personally comment on that. But this is a tragic story for all those involved.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jason S

    What an idiot! How do you forget to attach the harness to the hang glider? I don't understand how stress would make you swallow the evidence unless you panicked because you are guilty.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Herbys

    Everytime I went paragliding I felt the terrible sensation that I might get loose at any time and have a freefall. I've always thought I was paranoid. But it will be difficult for me to do it again given the mental images now have a real history attached.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • jack

      wow, you're not too bright, gliders don't have power, you launch from cliffs, or high points. Once you take off over a cliff you're already 1000 feet up, or what ever the elevation is from where you took off.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chrome48

    if she was not attached to the glider how did she get 1000 feet up till she fell? Would she not have even taken off?

    May 15, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • jross

      This took place in Agazzi, BC, they launch from cliffs at the top of hills, not lowlands.

      May 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jwl

    Onl reason media keeps reporting on this story is because they want that footage on the memory card to sensationalize it for ratings. You know they can't wait to get their hands on this footage.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jross

    I remember watching a report on tv about a syncronized (?) sky dive team, they all jumped out of the plane with the cameraman following. After filming everyone as they pulled their chutes (not those chutes!!!) you heard the camera guy go "s.h.#.t!!!" and that was it. He'd been so used to jumping he didn't put his parachute on before he left the plane. He just left without it... Apparently even the professionals can and do make stupid, life threatening mistakes...

    May 15, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. hoodinki

    What people do before they have time to come up with a lie is exactly what judges look at to determine a defendant's state of mind. The guilty mind tries to hide evidence or run away. The innocent stick around to help.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ron

    For once someone has recognized the magnitude of their own error (which was the sole cause of this tragedy), owned it, and offered a sincere apology. It doesn't fix anything, but he admitted his mistake, and ruined any defense he might have for a lawsuit. That took more courage than than the typical, pathetic, weasel-word apology. Politicians and other public figures – take note.

    May 15, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      He only admitted to swallowing the memory card. He hasn't admitted to his own negligence causing her death, which is what the police will be looking at. When he admits to that, then you can call him courageous and go hang-gliding with him for your next birthday.

      May 15, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jack

    nobody swallows a memory card when they're stressed out, he did it because he knew he was guilty. Memory cards are not food, even if you had completely lost your mind, eating the chip would not occur to you. But if you're trying to hide something, of course it would.

    May 15, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Linden

    I can't tell you the number of times I've been so stressed I ate my memory card!! What a lying slime, there is more to this.

    May 15, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Wown

    How did he even get her off the ground? I would have thought she would have fell off as soon as they started to move?

    May 15, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
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