Kiwi hang glider faces new criminal charges
A New Zealand hang glider pilot in Canada is facing a new charge of criminal negligence after a young woman he was taking for a tandem glide fell to her death.
According to Canadian news network CBC, William "Jon" Orders, 50, now faces the additional charge of criminal negligence causing death after passenger Lenami Godinez-Avila, 27, plunged 300 metres to her death last April.
He had already been charged with obstructing justice after he swallowed the memory card containing footage of the fatal flight.
Orders was arrested two days after the April 28 accident and held in remand for a week while lawyers and police waited for him to pass the memory card.
He was taking the 27-year-old on a hang-gliding tour, along with her boyfriend who had bought the flights as an anniversary present, when 30 seconds into the flight she came loose from her harness.
Godinez-Avila clung to Orders' body when she slipped from the hang-gliding equipment just after takeoff, but couldn't hang on.
She pulled off his shoe as she lost her grip, before falling to her death. Her body was found about eight hours later.
An investigation, late last year, from the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada found Orders faced some culpability after failing to perform required checks before take off.
"The investigation concluded that the passenger's harness was not connected to the glider on takeoff. The required 'hang-check' (or any other suitable method of harness/glider connection test) was not performed prior to the pilot committing to takeoff," the association said.
Orders publicly apologised last year to the family of Godinez-Avila, for stalling the investigation.
In a public apology to Godinez-Avila's friends and family, Orders said his actions were a drastic result of the "overwhelming stress" he was under.
"I would like to apologise to Lenami's family, to the police and the public for my panicked action of swallowing the memory card as I did," Orders said.
He said his actions were compounded by the presence of his 12-year-old daughter on the field where the tandem flight was supposed to land.
He also apologised for bringing negative attention to the hang-gliding and para-gliding communities.
Orders said the intention of his business was to introduce people and pilots to "the sport which has been my passion for nearly 20 years".
"I have concluded that I cannot and will not return to hang-gliding," he said.
His trial is expected to begin on April 15.
- © Fairfax NZ News