Report on B.C. hang gliding death lacks details, victim’s friend says
Published Thursday, August 23, 2012 9:07AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 23, 2012 11:50PM EDT
An investigation into a fatal hang gliding flight in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley concluded that human error likely caused the death of a 27-year-old woman, but the victim’s friends say the report is lacking important details.
The Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada’s report into the tragic accident that killed Lenami Godinez-Avila in April also said that multiple distractions may have played a role in the incident.
Godinez-Avila died on April 28, after falling about 300 metres to her death during a hang gliding excursion with pilot William Orders. The trip was purchased by her boyfriend to mark the couple's two-year anniversary.
Hang gliding association vice-president Bruce Busby said the group came to its conclusion after examining the passenger’s and pilot’s harnesses, the glider and talking to witnesses.
"The investigation looking at the equipment determined there was no equipment failure," he said. "The harness, the glider and the passenger harness were all in excellent condition.
"Therefore, the only way that a passenger could become separated from the glider is if she was never attached to the glider."
According to the report, the passenger's harness was not connected to the glider during takeoff.
As well, a "hang-check" was not performed even though Orders had taken a tandem re-certification course a few weeks before, noted the report.
Had the check been conducted, it would have been discovered that Godinez-Avila was not properly attached to the glider.
The report concluded that Orders failed to perform the check, though his partner Shaun Wallace could have performed the hang-check as well.
But one of Godinez-Avila’s friends told CTV British Columbia the report does not go far enough and is missing key details.
“It does not include a statement from the pilot, it’s not the official report from the police,” Kat Louman Gardiner said. “I don’t want her life to get lost in the tragedy of her death.”
The hang gliding association’s report also noted that distractions may have lead to a breakdown of standard operating procedures.
Orders was celebrating his 50th birthday the day of the flight and his daughter was watching, said Busby.
Orders is facing a charge of obstructing justice for allegedly ingesting a memory card believed to contain footage of the incident.
The RCMP has since viewed the content of the video card but won’t say what it contains.
They say their investigation is not over and future charges could be laid depending on what they uncover.
Busby said Orders is a member of the association though he is currently suspended.
The Canadian Press was unable to contact Orders' lawyer, Laird Cruickshank, for comment.
Following the tragedy, Orders released a statement apologizing to Godinez-Avila’s family and friends.
In May he told reporters that following the accident he has been under “overwhelming stress” and had decided to never return to hang gliding.
Orders – who is a permanent resident of Canada – is next scheduled to appear in court on April 2013, in Chilliwack, B.C.
Busby said the association will release recommendations so similar accidents are avoided in the future.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV British Columbia’s Shannon Paterson