Instructor Gets Five Months in Hang Gliding Death (Updated)

An experienced B.C. hang gliding instructor will go to jail for his role in the death of a young Mexican woman who fell to her death from his tandem aircraft in 2012.

Hang gliding instructor Jon Orders may be jailed in passenger's death.
Hang gliding instructor Jon Orders may be jailed in passenger’s death.

William Jon Orders was taking 28-year-old Lenami Godinez-Avila for her first hang gliding ride on April 28, 2012 when he forgot to hook her harness to the aircraft. She hung by her arms and Orders tried to hold her with his legs but about 90 seconds into the flight she fell about 300 metres to her death on a logging cut block on a mountain near Agassiz, about 140 km. east of Vancouver.

Orders pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death and both the Crown prosecutor and Orders defense lawyer have agreed he should serve a five month sentence and three years of probation.

Orders apologized to the woman’s family in court. “I’m very sorry for what happened and your loss,” he said.”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.”

His lawyer Jeff Campbell said Orders was known to be a safe pilot but the accident resulted from “a brief lapse of attention.”

Orders swallowed a memory card with video that recorded the accident. The card was recovered and reviewed by police and justice officials. It has not been publicly released but the contents were described in court. Orders was charged with obstruction of justice for swallowing the card but the Crown will not proceed with that charge.

Prosecutor Carolyn Kramer said Orders missed several steps necessary to assure a safe flight.

“This was a complete failure to comply with industry standards and complete aberration of his duties owed to passengers,” she told the court.