NZer jailed over fatal hang-glider flight

A New Zealand hang-glider pilot who failed to connect a woman on a tandem flight, causing her to fall 300 metres to her death, has been sentenced to five months in a Canadian jail.

William Jon Orders, 51, entered a guilty plea last week to a charge of criminal negligence causing the death of Lenami Godinez-Avila, 28, shortly after taking off for a flight across British Columbia's Fraser Valley in April 2012, Canadian media reported.

Orders did not hook Ms Godinez-Avila to the hang-glider and also failed to conduct a required safety check before taking off, despite having 18 years' experience and recently completing a re-certification course.

After he landed, he swallowed a memory card containing a video of the incident, for which he was also charged with obstruction of justice, however this charge was stayed by the Crown.

The contents of the video were described to the court last week, including details of how Ms Godinez-Avila desperately tried in vain to cling on to the glider when she realised she was not properly secured. It also shows Orders attempting to clip her in, but she slips and plummets to her death, The Globe and Mail reported.

Ms Godinez-Avila, a Mexican student at the University of British Columbia, was celebrating an anniversary with her boyfriend.

Orders was sentenced to five months in jail, including three years probation, during which time he will be banned from hang-gliding and must educate others about the incident.

He has since given up hang-gliding and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, the court heard.

Apologising to Ms Godinez-Avila's family after his guilty plea, he said: "I did tandem hang-gliding to make people proud of their accomplishments, that they may overcome fear of height, or live their dream of flying like a bird. All those previous flights mean nothing to me now."

- Patrice Dougan of APNZ

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