A memory card police believe has spent days in the belly of a B.C. hang glider may still contain salvageable evidence, according to an expert in digital forensics.
David McKay, program coordinator for Blackstone Forensics, says he’s seen digital data extracted from cards that were stomped on, soaked and worse.
“These devices, which are solid state devices, they use a form of non-volatile memory and are very stable,” McKay said. “They’ve been frozen, dropped in puddles and left for days, they’ve been submerged in water and it’s been possible to pull information.”
Fifty-year-old William Jonathan Orders allegedly swallowed a card from the Drift camera mounted on his tandem glider after passenger Lenami Godinez-Avila detached mid-flight and fell to her death on Saturday.
Mounties believe the card may contain video footage that will shed light on the cause of the tragic accident, and revealed Wednesday that X-rays reveal an object similar to it remains in his body.
McKay said he’s never seen a memory card that spent almost a week in a human digestive system, but it’s likely that at least portions of the video or images stored on the device will be retrievable.
How long the card potentially spent in the stomach, where it would be exposed to corrosive acids, will factor in to how much information is useable, he added.
“Once it makes it to the digestive tract, much of the moisture is absorbed,” McKay said.
“At the end of the day, this will be a very interesting case study.”
The allegedly consumed card is either a pill-sized microSD card or a stamp-sized standard SD card, depending on Orders’ camera model.
Godinez-Avila received her hang gliding trip as an anniversary present from her boyfriend, who was filming the experience before she plummeted 300 metres to her death. She was 27 years old.
The Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada has suspended Orders’ instructor certification pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
The pilot has 16 years’ experience as a glider and is the owner-operator of Vancouver Hang Gliding.
He has been in custody since the accident and charged with obstructing justice for allegedly swallowing the memory device, with a bail hearing scheduled for Friday in Chilliwack provincial court.