‘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.

Just Posted

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Holger Schwichtenberg and his son Philip talk in the barn of the 150-acre Schwichtenberg farm. This farm is one of many throughout B.C. that support more than 12,500 jobs across the province in the dairy industry. (Contributed Photo/B.C. Dairy Association)
Agassiz dairy farm a model of care for environment, animals, and family

Farm is part of a dairy sector centred in the Fraser Valley, supporting 12,500 jobs province-wide

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Most Read