Hang gliding cause of death to be held back

The investigation into a hang gliding death that occurred near Agassiz in April is almost complete but the results might take another year.

  • Aug. 3, 2012 8:00 a.m.

by Adrian MacNair

The investigation into a hang gliding death that occurred near Agassiz in April is almost complete but the results might not be made public for another year.

Bruce Busby, vice president of the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada [HGPAC] in Calgary, said the information will likely be held pending the outcome of a criminal trial for pilot Jon Orders.

“I don’t know if it’s the police or the courts but we’ve just been asked to wait,” he said.

Lenami Godinez-Avila, 27, died when she fell from the glider shortly after taking off on a tandem flight with Orders from Mount Woodside. He was later charged with obstruction of justice for swallowing a memory card containing pictures of the flight that might offer clues as to how she fell to her death.

Busby stressed nobody from the HGPAC has seen any results from the investigation yet.

“I can only suspect they don’t want to prejudice the case for Jon Orders.”

Margit Nance, executive director of HGPAC in Vancouver, said even if the board received the report it wouldn’t be made public.

“We would not just willy nilly release that. That would have to be determined whether that’s appropriate,” she said.

Nance said when the board receives the report the first person notified would likely be the lawyer for the pilot.

“We would be very careful and in fact we might very well hold the whole thing off until after the trial date as well, because for the same reason nobody wants inadvertently to affect in any way the proper carrying out of justice.”

Nance said that the HGPAC has an accident reporting system in place to learn from such incidents, though this circumstance is different because of the criminal charge.

“Every accident is definitely a learning opportunity for everyone and we take that very seriously,” she said.

The investigator in the accident is Martin Henry, a former president of the HGPAC, who has been working independently of the association in conjunction with the RCMP and the Coroner’s Office.

Henry is considered one of the pioneers of the sport. Over the past 40 years he  has developed many of the safety protocols and aviation techniques used in the sport today.

“He has flown huge distances and yet he’s one of those finicky, particular pilots that always stays committed to safety,” said Nance, adding he really stresses the importance of the pre-flight check.

Although Busby said he knows people are curious to learn whether it was pilot error or equipment malfunction that was responsible for Godinez-Avila’s death, they’ll have to wait just a bit longer.

The trial for Orders is expected to get underway April 15, 2013.

 

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