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B.C. hang-glider pilot granted bail after police recover memory card

William (Jon) Orders, the pilot involved in Saturday's tragic hang-gliding accident near Agassiz, B.C.

RCMP say they have retrieved the memory card swallowed by the pilot involved in a hang-gliding tragedy in which a young woman plunged to her death.

William (Jon) Orders, the 50-year-old pilot, was granted bail Friday and is expected to be released from custody Monday. He has been charged with obstructing justice.

His release is subject to certain conditions, including posting $5,750 bail and not operating a hang glider.

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Bail conditions also include that Mr. Orders turn over passports and secondary citizenship papers.

Outside court, Crown lawyer Lori Stevens told reporters that Mr. Orders holds at least two passports, including one from New Zealand.

Details of the Friday bail hearing are covered by a publication ban.

Lenami Godinez-Avila was celebrating an anniversary with her boyfriend last Saturday with a hang-gliding excursion, but tumbled out of her harness seconds after takeoff. Witnesses said the 27-year-old fell 300 metres to her death while her boyfriend watched.

The young woman's body was found about eight hours later in a forest clear-cut below Mount Woodside, a popular spot for hang gliders to launch from above the valley.

Mr. Orders appeared in court wearing a short-sleeve green shirt, and listened attentively, occasionally nodding or shaking his head.

During a break from the hearing, the RCMP said they had recovered the memory card from Mr. Orders, who has been in custody since the incident, and would now examine it. The card is part of the standard video-recording system common to many hang-glider crafts.

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"We have steps in place as far as processing the evidence for establishing anything on there that may be of evidentiary value to us," said RCMP Constable Tracy Wolbeck, speaking outside the Chilliwack Provincial Courthouse

An earlier bail hearing was adjourned to ensure police were able to recover the evidence.

Constable Wolbeck said Ms. Godinez-Avila's family members have come to B.C., looking for answers about how she died. "And that is our focus and will remain our focus until we get the answers we need to supply to them."

Mr. Orders' lawyer Laird Cruickshank would only say his client is being as co-operative as possible.

"He's dealing with difficult circumstances, obviously," Mr. Cruickshank said outside court.

Mr. Orders is a fully certified hang-gliding pilot and instructor who's been soaring around the world for 16 years.

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His business website, Vancouver Hang Gliding, boasts that photos and video are available when people purchase a tandem hang-gliding trip.

Video on the website shows a clear shot from the glider wing of a pilot and client taking off in tandem and flying over B.C.'s scenic Fraser Valley.

His tandem hang gliding experiences cost $210 on weekends.

"Photos and video are available using a specially mounted camera pole that captures you, your pilot and the amazing scenery around you," said the website sales pitch.

When police announced the charge on Monday, they said Mr. Orders was accused of withholding "key evidence."

Police have said they seized video taken by the boyfriend on the ground and the hang glider is also evidence and has been secured for the investigation.

Jason Warner, with the Hang-Gliders and Para-gliders Association of Canada, said that he spoke with Mr. Orders minutes after Ms. Godinez-Avila fell from the glider.

Mr. Orders told him he knew something was wrong almost immediately and tried desperately to hang on to the woman, who clung to his body and then slipped down his legs, taking one of Mr. Orders' shoes with her, Mr. Warner said in an earlier interview.

With files from The Canadian Press

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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