A B.C. hang-gliding pilot being held in custody after the weekend death of his passenger is alleged to have swallowed a memory card that might have contained a video of the fatal flight Saturday, police say.
A document submitted by the RCMP to British Columbia provincial court recommending charges of obstruction of justice alleges that pilot William Jon Orders "did wilfully attempt to obstruct justice by swallowing a memory card which may contain evidence in the sudden death of Lenami Godinez."
Orders, 50, was charged with obstructing justice on Monday after 27-year-old Godinez fell 300 metres to her death during a tandem hang-glider flight.
A video record of every flight is part of the experience promised on the website of Vancouver Hang Gliding, the company owned and operated by Orders.
Could the memory card survive?
If, as police allege, William Orders swallowed a memory card, there's a good chance any video will survive intact if the card is recovered. Flash memory cards are "solid state," meaning that unlike a relatively delicate hard drive, they have no mechanical parts and so are notoriously durable.
In tests, they've been dunked in coffee and Gatorade, put through a washing machine, frozen in a block of ice, boiled, run over by a skateboard and smothered in peanut butter — with no effect on the data. At the extreme end, files on several camera cards that were smashed with a sledgehammer or nailed to a tree were still recoverable. Compact flash cards have endured the explosive demolition of a Missouri bridge and even the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
So, with Orders in custody, it's a waiting game to see when the card he is alleged to have swallowed might turn up.
The website says photos and a video are made possible by a specially mounted camera that captures images of the passenger, pilot and scenery during the flight.
Orders was arrested after the incident and has been held in custody. He is expected to appear at a bail hearing in Chilliwack provincial court Wednesday.
RCMP Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth said earlier Tuesday that Orders is accused of not providing key information.
"It's related to an allegation that he has possibly withheld potential key evidence which could help our investigation. We've been speaking to all the witnesses. Like I say, further interviews may be required but our investigation continues."
Police have already seized the hang glider used in the fatal flight, but say they are still looking for a key piece of evidence.
Hollingsworth says more charges could be laid as the investigation progresses.
Tried to hold passenger
Witnesses said Orders tried desperately to hold on to Godinez as she slipped from his grip and plunged 300 metres to her death about 30 seconds after the launch of the tandem flight.
The pair took off from Mount Woodside, a popular gliding spot and considered one of the safest launch sites in the Fraser Valley for winds and for distances, said Warner.
Godinez's boyfriend had bought her the flight as an anniversary gift and was videotaping her takeoff, but stopped recording just before she fell to her death, said Warner.
Orders, a hang glider with 16 years of experience, became a certified tandem instructor three years ago.
The sport of hang gliding is largely self-regulated, meaning there are few requirements imposed on it by governments.