‘Pilot error’ blamed for death of hang gliding passenger

A harness was not fastened before the take-off of a tandem hang glider resulting in the tragic death of passenger Lenami Godinez-Avila.

A young woman who fell to her death during her first tandem hang-gliding flight was not hooked into the glider before take-off, according to an investigation by the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada.

Lenami Godinez-Avila, 27, fell 1,000 feet to her death on April 28 shortly after take-off from the launch site at Mt. Woodside near Agassiz.

Pilot William (Jon) Orders landed safely, but was charged with obstruction of justice when police learned he swallowed a video chip from a camera onboard the glider that recorded the tragic flight.

Orders is scheduled to return to court for trial on April 15 next year.

Margit Nance, HPAC executive director, told The Progress that the investigator’s report deals only with the pre-flight actions of Orders, and has nothing to do with the post-flight period that is the subject of the obstruction charge.

She said the association will soon release recommendations on “what additional things (pilots) can do to strengthen our pre-flight checks.”

She said new safeguards are already in place, but added that hang-gliding pilots usually follow a checklist and double-check each other before a flight.

“We rely on each other as additional safeguards,” she explained.

One of the findings of HPAC accident investigator Martin Henry was that a second pilot was on the scene, which may have created “distractions” that led to the failure to hook Godinez-Avila into the glider.

“The investigation assumes that pilot distraction resulted in a failure to perform recommended standardized safety procedures,” Henry reported.

However, he added, the “unusual aspect” of a second pilot on the scene “makes if difficult to understand how the multiple phases of the pre-flight (were) missed by both pilots, and how the hang-check was not performed.”

According to witnesses at the time, Godinez-Avila clung desperately to Orders’ legs after she slipped out of the harness on take-off, but finally could hang on no longer and fell to her death.

According to the HPAC report, Shaun Wallace, a certified pilot from Australia, had been hired by Orders to take Godinez-Avila’s boyfriend on a tandem flight following Orders’ take-off.

Wallace took part in several pre-flight actions involving Godinez-Avila, Henry wrote in the report, including bringing her to Orders’ hang-glider, activating the video camera, and “remaining directly behind the glider during the launch process.”

However, Henry added that as command pilot, Orders was “solely responsible for the safety of his passenger.”

Henry wrote that his investigation was “unable to determine the reason for the omission of the critical pre-launch safety checks,” but he concluded that “the dynamics of multiple passengers and instructors may be the key to understanding why the critical pre-launch procedures were not performed.”

Just a few weeks prior to the fatal flight, Orders, 50, had taken a re-certification course that included the pre-launch readiness procedure.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack Business Excellence Awards return in 2021 with six new categories

Using a virtual format, the awards will celebrate innovation and inspiration in a pandemic

Chilliwack BC Liberal candidate hopeful jumps to the BC Conservatives

Days after Janzen said she had ‘rug yanked’ from under her by BC Liberals she finds a new home

Chilliwack RCMP still seeking second suspect in Charles Avenue truck fire

Jordan Cole Burt was taken into RCMP custody while wanted on an outstanding warrant

Chilliwack’s Gary Robbins maps out epic trail across eight mountains

Robbins spent nearly 40 hours covering 110 miles and over 10,000 metres of elevation gain

Driver in fatal crash near Hope pleads guilty in death of female passenger

Anthony Cortez scheduled to be sentenced for death following crime spree in 2017

B.C.’s top doctor thanks supporters after revealing threats over COVID-19 measures

Dr. Bonnie Henry says COVID-19 has caused some people to lash out in anger and frustration out of fear

NDP, Greens divided on pace of child care improvements in B.C. election campaign

NDP Leader John Horgan recommitted to $10-a-day child care and blamed the Greens for not supporting his efforts

Wind warning for White Rock, South Surrey

Gusts up to 90 km/h expected from Richmond to Langley Friday (Sept. 25) morning

BC Liberal Leader talks drug addiction in the Lower Mainland

Drug addiction and public safety a top priority says Andrew Wilkinson

Pandemic derails CP Holiday Train

Canadian Pacific will work to get donations to food banks while also producing an online music concert

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vanderhoof’s Brian Frenkel takes on top job in tough times

We can get through this, new local government leader says

Abbotsford veteran survives cancer scare, celebrates 95th birthday

Second World War veteran Andy Anderson receives socially distanced birthday party after health scare

Most Read