'Pilot error' blamed for death of hang gliding passenger

By Robert Freeman - Chilliwack Progress

A "hang-check" was not performed by two hang gliding pilot/instructors, one of them a Burnaby resident, at the start of a fatal tandem passenger flight in April, according to an investigation by the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada.

Passenger 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.

"The investigation concluded that the passenger's harness was not connected to the glider on takeoff," HPAC accident investigator Martin Henry said in the Aug. 22 report.

"The failure to ensure the connection of the passenger to the glider and failure to perform a thorough pre-launch readiness assessment suggests compounding incidents of pilot error," he said.

The report notes that pilot Jon Orders of Burnaby has not made an official statement since the incident, and his subsequent charge for obstruction of justice after swallowing a video chip that recorded the flight.

The report also notes a second pilot was on the scene, and suggested "multiple distractions" may have contributed to the tragic oversight.

"The investigation concludes that the dynamics of multiple passengers and instructors may be the key to understanding why the critical pre-launch procedures were not performed," Henry said.

"Until such time that a statement from Mr. Orders is made available, the investigation assumes that pilot distraction resulted in a failure to perform recommended standardized safety procedures, resulting in the death of passenger Lenami Godinez-Avila," he said.

Orders, 50, had taken a re-certification course that included the pre-launch readiness assessment just a few weeks prior to the fatal flight, according to the report.

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