Hang-glider pilot accused of swallowing evidence in fatal fall granted bail

Lenami Godinez-Avila had just started a tandem hang-gliding flight with the instructor, when she fell to her death.

Story highlights

  • William Jonathan Orders was granted bail
  • He was with Lenami Godinez-Avila when she fell from the glider to her death
  • Police say Orders of swallowed a memory card possibly containing video of the fall
  • The recording has since passed and is now in police custody
A Canadian hang-gliding instructor who police say swallowed a memory card possibly containing video of a fatal accident was granted bail Friday, a court spokesman said.
William Jonathan Orders, 50, who was arrested and charged with obstructing justice, appeared in provincial court in Chilliwack, British Columbia. His bail was set at $5,750 (Canadian), said Neil MacKenzie, communications counsel with the province's criminal justice branch.
Orders was instructed to turn over his passport and to not operate a hang glider or paraglider, he said.
Lenami Godinez-Avila had just started a tandem hang-gliding flight with the instructor, when she fell from the glider, plunging hundreds of feet to her death Saturday in a heavily wooded part of western Canada, authorities say.
Investigators say the instructor tried to hide what might be a key piece of evidence about what went wrong -- a possible onboard video recording of the flight -- in his digestive tract.
The recording has since passed and is now in police custody, MacKenzie said. He declined comment on whether anything retrievable could be taken from the card.
Calls on Thursday and Friday seeking comment from Orders' attorney, Laird Cruickshank, were not immediately returned.
The fall happened near Mount Woodside, from which Orders and the 27-year-old Godinez-Avila took off, more than 50 miles east of Vancouver.
A witness, Nicole McLearn, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that when the glider was in the air, Godinez-Avila appeared to be wearing her harness, but it wasn't attached to the glider. The passenger clung to Orders before she fell, McLearn said.
"He was horizontal but she was now hanging vertically, and it looked like in essence she had him in a bear hug around the chest area," McLearn told the CBC.
"I could see her starting to slip down his body ... past the waist, down the legs. Finally she got to the feet and tried to hang on and obviously couldn't hang on for that much longer and let go, tearing off the tandem pilot's shoes in the process," McLearn said.
Jason Warner, safety director for the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada, told the CBC on Sunday that he talked to Orders shortly after the incident on Saturday afternoon.
"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," Warner told the CBC.
Orders told police he had swallowed the memory card of the onboard camera, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Tracy Wolbeck said. When asked whether Orders explained why he had done so, Wolbeck said she couldn't comment further on conversations he'd had with investigators.
The RCMP said it and the Coroners Service of British Columbia are investigating the incident.
"She became detached from the hang glider and fell, but how she came to be detached is what we're still working on," said Barb McLintock, coroner with the Coroners Service of British Columbia.