Woman on anniversary glider ride plunges to her death
Published Sunday, April 29, 2012 9:28PM EDT
A 27-year-old woman plunged to her death moments after setting off on a tandem hang gliding flight in British Columbia's Fraser Valley Saturday.
The woman's boyfriend watched in horror as she desperately tried to hold on to the pilot after they launched off Mount Woodside near Agassiz, B.C.
CTV British Columbia identified the woman as Lenami Godinez, a University of British Columbia student who also worked for the provincial government. She immigrated to Canada from Mexico nine years ago.
The pilot has been identified as Jon Orders.
"He felt there was something wrong within seconds from launch," Jason Warner, a hang gliding safety expert who spoke with the pilot after the accident, told The Canadian Press Sunday.
"I saw she was no longer horizontal," Nicole McLearn, who witnessed Godinez's fall, told CTV British Columbia. "It looked like she was hanging vertically and in essence bear-hugged the pilot in command in an attempt to stay up."
Warner said Godinez had no gliding experience. Saturday's flight was an anniversary gift from her boyfriend, who was videotaping the event just before she fell 300 metres to her death.
It took search and rescue crews about eight hours to find her body in the heavily wooded area.
"It's almost certain that she wasn't hooked in," said Alex Raymont, a member of the search team who found Godinez's body. "I looked at the harness. I couldn't see it all...but it's almost certain she wasn't connected at all."
Warner said the pilot did everything he could to hang on to Godinez as she detached from the harness, but she slipped from his grip.
"He tried to grab her, he tried to grab her harness, everything he could, wrapped his legs around her and she slipped down his legs and then fell," he said.
"The worst thing possible has happened. Everybody is in shock, the (gliding) community is in shock."
Warner, who is the safety director for the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada, said this is the first time such a horrifying accident has happened in the country.
He said Mount Woodside is considered one of the safest sites in the Fraser Valley to launch from.
RCMP and the BC Coroners Service are investigating the accident. Police could not say Sunday whether pilot error or equipment failure were to blame.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Shannon Paterson