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Pilot facing additional charge in hang-glider’s death

William Orders, the pilot involved in a tragic hang-gliding accident near Agassiz, B.C.

A hang-glider pilot whose passenger fell 300 metres to her death in the town of Agassiz last year is facing a new charge of criminal negligence causing death.

William (Jon) Orders, who was charged last year with obstruction of justice in connection with the death of 27-year-old Lenami Godinez-Avila, did not speak during his brief court appearance at Chilliwack Provincial Court on Monday. His next court date is scheduled for March 12.

Ms. Godinez-Avila was on a tandem-glider flight with Mr. Orders – a certified hang-gliding instructor with 16 years of experience – on April 28, 2012, when she came loose from her harness and fell to her death. It took rescuers eight hours to retrieve her body.

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The Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada investigated the matter and determined Ms. Godinez-Avila's harness was not connected to the glider and that human error – not faulty equipment – was to blame. As well, a prelaunch safety check was not performed even though Mr. Orders had taken a tandem recertification course just weeks before, the association stated.

The obstruction charge, approved in April, relates to Mr. Orders swallowing a memory card taken from video-recording equipment aboard the glider. He was held in custody until the card passed through his system.

In a public statement last spring, Mr. Orders apologized for his actions, saying his impulsive behaviour was triggered by "overwhelming stress."

"I would like to apologize to Lenami's family, to the police and the public for my panicked action of swallowing the memory card as I did," he said at the time. "I disclosed to the police shortly afterwards what I had done with the memory card. From that point on, I offered my full co-operation in ensuring the retrieval of the card."

Ms. Godinez-Avila's boyfriend, who purchased the flight to celebrate the couple's two-year anniversary, had been watching and waiting for his turn when the tragedy occurred.

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