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Pilot charged in fatal hang-gliding flight out on bail

Jon Orders, the hang-gliding pilot charged with obstruction of justice after a fatal tandem flight April 28, was released from custody Monday in Chilliwack.

Orders, 50, was granted release by a provincial court judge Friday, but remained in custody over the weekend until he perfected $5,750 cash bail and surrendered passport and citizenship documents.

Evidence submitted by Crown and defence lawyers at the bail hearing cannot be published by court order.

Crown counsel opposed the release, but Judge Roy Dickey said the Crown had not convinced him their concerns were strong enough to continue holding Orders.

“I have determined that the risk can be dealt with in terms of the conditions of his release,” the judge said.

In addition to turning in passports and citizenship documents, the conditions included no travel outside B.C., no operation of a hang-glider or paraglider, attend all court hearings in person, no contact with several witnesses and report regularly to a bail supervisor.

Lenami Godinez-Avila, a 27-year-old from Mexico, fell to her death during a tandem hang-gliding flight with Orders that took off from Mount Woodside just before noon April 28.

When police charged Orders had swallowed a camera memory card that might hold evidence, the story captured world-wide attention and speculation.

Order’s lawyer Laird Cruickshank told The Progress after the Friday hearing that his client may want to comment down the road about the media coverage, but “I’m concerned about his emotional well-being; that’s been more the focus than what others are saying about him.”

Meanwhile, Orders’ certification as a hang-glider instructor has been suspended by the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada and an investigation launched.

Investigations by the RCMP and the BC Coroners Office continue.

RCMP Const. Tracy Wolbeck said a team of investigators is looking into the case, but she would not comment on possible further charges.

“We’ll have to see where the evidence leads us,” she said.

“The RCMP priority is exclusively to answer the questions we all have, particularly those of the family,” she said.

“They have come to Canada in search of answers to provide some clarity regarding the death of their daughter.”

Martin Henry, a master-rated pilot with over 30 years experience, is the lead investigator for the association, with assistance from Jason Warner, the association’s safety chair.

Margit Nance, association executive director, told The Progress last week that “there is total gloom in our flying community.”

“It’s just so tragic,” she said. “To say there is deep shock is an understatement.”

Nance said this is the first such fatal incident in Canada “and must never happen again.”

“One is too many, as far as I’m concerned,” she said.

Vancouver Hang Gliding, the business owned by Orders, now advises on its website that passengers should “double check the preparations (for flight) and quiz the pilot for their own safety.”

“It is not known yet the exact circumstance that led to the fatal error that caused the (April 28) accident,” the author of the statement writes. “Nevertheless, I recommend to never rush, never pressure to fly, don’t (or accept to be) just a passenger.”

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