Pilot May Be Jailed In Hang Gliding Death

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A Canadian hang gliding instructor may go to jail after pleading guilty to criminal charges in an accident that killed a Mexican woman he was taking on a tandem flight. Lenami Godinez-Avila died April 28, 2012, when she fell from the hang glider after it launched from a mountain about 80 miles east of Vancouver. According to CTV, the court was told last Friday that pilot William Jon Orders forgot to hook his passenger's harness to the aircraft before launch. He eventually pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death. Both Orders' defense lawyer and the government prosecutor recommended the judge sentence him to five months plus three years of probation. It's possible the judge will order any time be served under house confinement rather than in prison. Sentencing will be done next week. Orders was also charged with obstruction of justice after he swallowed a video camera memory card that recorded the accident. That charge was dropped.

The video was recovered and formed the basis of the case. The video will not be released publicly but was described in court. It showed Godinez-Avila first hanging from the control bar by her arms and Orders wrapping his legs around her while trying in vain to attach her carabiner to the aircraft. She fell about 1,000 feet about 90 seconds after takeoff and her body was later recovered on the mountainside. Orders' lawyer noted Orders had a reputation as a safe and careful pilot but the accident resulted from "a brief lapse of attention." Prosecutor Carolyn Kramer said Orders missed a series of steps needed to ensure the safety of the flight. "This was a complete failure to comply with industry standards and complete aberration of his duties owed to passengers."  Orders, who quit flying after the accident, apologized to the victim's family in court. "I'm very sorry for what happened and your loss," he is quoted as saying. "I did tandem hang-gliding to make people proud of their accomplishments, that they may overcome fear of height, or live their dream of flying like a bird. All those previous flights mean nothing to me now."