Pilot jailed over hang glider death

Last updated 09:21 12/02/2014
Lenami Godinez-Avila
LENAMI GODINEZ-AVILA: Plunged to her death.
Jon Orders
WILLIAM 'JON' ORDERS: 'I want so much to relive that day and have it turn out differently.'

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A New Zealand hang glider pilot who failed to connect a 28-year-old woman during a tandem flight and caused her to fall 300 metres to her death has been sentenced to five months in jail.

William Jon Orders, 51, received the sentence today after earlier pleading guilty to criminal negligence causing the death of Lenami Godinez-Avila.

Godinez-Avila died on April 28, 2012, after plummeting from the hang-glider shortly after taking off for a flight in Canada across British Columbia's Fraser Valley.

A judge heard testimony from Orders who said he did not hook Godinez-Avila to the glider and also failed to conduct a required safety check before launching.

After he landed, he swallowed a memory card containing video of the incident. He later apologised for this.  

Godinez-Avila was from Mexico. She was working for British Columbia's Environment Ministry while studying at the University of British Columbia.

Orders was taking the 27-year-old woman on a hang-gliding tour, along with her boyfriend who had bought the flights as an anniversary present, when 30 seconds in 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 in front of Orders and her boyfriend. Her body was found about eight hours later.

Orders later apologised to the woman's friends and family for his actions, saying it was a 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.

"I disclosed to the police myself shortly afterwards what I had done with the memory card," he said.

"From that point on I offered my full co-operation in ensuring the retrieval of the card."

His lawyer, Lori Stevens, said he held expired New Zealand, Australian and British passports.

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A source close to the investigation said Orders was a New Zealander.

- agencies

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