B.C. glider pilot charged with obstruction of justice
Published Monday, April 30, 2012 9:29PM EDT
A British Columbia hang-gliding pilot whose 27-year-old passenger fell to her death Saturday, as her boyfriend watched helplessly, is facing a criminal charge over allegations he tried to hide evidence from police.
The RCMP allege that 50-year-old William Jonathan Orders withheld potential evidence that could help determine whether he played a role in Lenami Godinez's death.
He has been charged with obstructing justice and will remain in police custody until his court appearance on Wednesday.
RCMP Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth wouldn't say what it was that Orders allegedly withheld from police, but said he's being "somewhat" co-operative in the investigation.
Godinez, a University of British Columbia student who worked for the provincial environment ministry, plunged about 300 metres to her death just seconds after the glider took off from Mount Woodside in B.C.'s Fraser Valley.
The hang gliding experience was an anniversary gift from Godinez's boyfriend, who watched in horror as she detached from the glider and unsuccessfully tried to hold on to the pilot.
Hollingsworth said police have seized video of Godinez's brief flight, taken by her boyfriend.
"We're still in the preliminary stages of this. We're tying to gather evidence, we're speaking to witnesses, we're doing all the particular steps that normal investigations start and end with," she said.
"Obviously, the first question is: how did this go so wrong?" Barb McLintock of BC Coroners Service told CTV British Columbia.
The Coroners Service is investigating Godinez's death along with the RCMP.
Other witnesses said Godinez tried to wrap her arms and legs around Orders before she fell into a heavily forested area.
It took search and rescue crews about eight hours to find her body. Some immediately suspected that Godinez wasn't properly strapped into the safety harness.
"It's almost certain that she wasn't hooked in," Alex Raymont, a member of the search team who found Godinez's body, told CTV British Columbia on Sunday. "I looked at the harness. I couldn't see it all... but it's almost certain she wasn't connected at all."
Margit Nance, the executive director of the Hang Gliders and Paragliders Association of Canada, said Orders is well regarded in the industry.
"He's a very experienced pilot," she said. "He's completely certified and has gone through all of the hoops that all of our pilots have to go through."
Current and former colleagues remembered Godinez as a bright, ambitious and friendly woman.
Former co-worker Stuart Chase said Godinez and her boyfriend both pursued careers that focused on environmental sustainability.
"They were both very eco-friendly people," he told CTV British Columbia.
With files from The Canadian Press