08/22/2012 10:25 EDT | Updated 10/22/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C. Hang-Gliding Death: Human Error, Not Equipment Failure, Behind Passenger's Death

Vancouver Hang Gliding/BC Daily Buzz/LinkedIn

VANCOUVER - Human error, not weather or faulty equipment, caused a woman to fall about 300 metres to her death during a hang-gliding trip in British Columbia's Fraser Valley this spring, says a investigation into the tragedy.

In it's report into the April 28 accident that killed 27-year-old Lenami Godinez-Avila, the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada also noted multiple distractions may have resulted in a breakdown of pre-launch procedures.

The report, released late Wednesday, didn't include statements from pilot William (Jon) Orders, who is facing an obstruction of justice charge for allegedly swallowing a memory card thought to be related to the incident.

Bruce Busby, vice-president of the association, said the organization's investigation came to the conclusions after examining the passenger's and pilot's harnesses, the glider and talking to witnesses.

"The investigation looking at the equipment determined there was no equipment failure," he said. "The harness, the glider and the passenger harness were all in excellent condition.

"Therefore, the only way that a passenger could become separated from the glider is if she was never attached to the glider."

The Canadian Press was unable to contact Orders' lawyer, Laird Cruickshank, for comment.

Busby said Orders is a member of the association but is currently suspended.

The accident took place on a day that was originally planned as a celebration. Godinez-Avila's boyfriend had purchased the hang-gliding adventure as part of a celebration of the couple's two year anniversary.

But according to the report, the passenger's harness was not connected to the glider during take off, and a "hang-check" was not performed, even though Orders had taken a tandem re-certification course just weeks before, the report noted.

"The investigation was unable to determine the reason for the omission of the critical pre-launch safety checks," it stated.

The report notes, though, that multiple distractions may have resulted in a breakdown of standard operating procedures.

Busby said Orders was celebrating his 50th birthday on the day of the tragedy and his daughter was watching.

He said Godinez-Avila and her boyfriend were also participating in flights at the time.

Following the accident, Orders issued a statement through Cruickshank, apologizing to Godinez-Avila's family and friends as well as the general public.

He also told reporters in May that he was under "overwhelming stress" after the accident.

Orders said his goal was to give Godinez-Avila an "amazing adventure and lots of smiles, but because he failed in such a major way," he has decided never to return to hang gliding.

Cruickshank said in May the incident was traumatic for his client and difficult to deal with.

Orders is a permanent resident of Canada and has surrendered two regular passports and an emergency passport -- for New Zealand, the U.K. and Australia -- all of which have expired, Cruishank said at the time.

Orders' next court appearance is scheduled for April 15, 2013, in Chilliwack, B.C.

Busby said the association now plans to release recommendations so that a similar tragedy doesn't happen again.

In fact, he said a tandem passenger has never died in Canada.

"Hang gliding and paragliding sports are really about smiles and laughter," said Busby. "It's not about tears and horrible stories.

"If we can encourage people to come on out and give it a try, we'll make sure that we keep them safe. They can enjoy the sport we are all so much in love with."

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