Burnaby hang glider sentenced to five months for death of passenger

A Burnaby man whose negligence while piloting a passenger on a hang gliding flight in Agassiz caused her to fall to her death has been sentenced to five months in jail.

Jon Orders, who's originally from New Zealand, had earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal negligence causing death after Lenami Godinez-Avila, a 27-year-old from Mexico, plummeted 300 metres during a tandem flight from Mount Woodside just before noon April 28, 2012.

Orders was also charged with obstruction of justice after he swallowed a memory card from a video camera that recorded the incident, but that charge was stayed. The card was eventually recovered and its contents were described during the court hearing Feb. 7 when Orders pleaded guilty.

The flight was Godinez-Avila's first, a gift from her boyfriend who was watching from the ground. Shortly after taking off, Orders realized something had gone wrong and his passenger was slipping out of her harness. He tried to hang on to her but she fell to the ground. Her body was found later that night.

Shortly after the incident, Orders made a public apology and vowed he'd never hang glide again.

The Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada, which also investigated the incident, said it was the first time such a fatality had occurred in Canada. It found Godinez-Avila's harness had not been connected to the glider at takeoff and Orders had failed to perform a pre-launch readiness assessment. A report released by the association four months after the accident suggested "multiple distractions" may have contributed to the oversights.

As part of his sentence, Orders will also be on probation for three years during which he'll be prohibited from hang gliding. He'll also have to educate others about hang gliding safety. The hang gliding association had already suspended Orders' certification as an instructor.


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