CANMORE – An attempt to plead guilty by the paraglider who delayed an October rescue of a BASE jumper on a local peak will have to wait.
Appearing in Canmore provincial court Thursday (Dec. 2), Hans Resendiz Pineda was facing charges related to when he launched and floated in the area of rescue helicopter air space on the East End of Rundle (EEOR), leading to about a 20-minute delay of a rescue of a BASE jumper clinging to a rock face.
He was set to plead guilty and pay a $6,000 fine, but Justice of the Peace Peter Roginski ruled the decision was outside his jurisdiction when taking into account the procedures regulation under the Justice of the Peace regulation when ruling on Provincial Parks Act offences.
“There’s some laws that give me the power to do things and I’m limited in my powers," Roginski told Resendiz Pineda after a 10-minute discussion in court with Crown prosecutor Bev Shugg.
"I can’t deal with everything I feel like dealing with or is brought before me. In this particular case, I don’t think this is an offence I have the power to deal with,” said Shugg.
The rescue had Kananaskis Country Public Safety (KCPS) airlift a man in his 40s after his parachute failed and he smashed into the rock face of EEOR.
When he deployed, the parachute twisted and had him hit the rock. The man fell down the mountain for about 175 to 200 metres from the jump location until his parachute caught the rock edge and left him dangling from his parachute.
A BASE jumper’s friend called 911 and KCPS and Alpine Helicopters responded, attempting a heli-sling rescue. However, that was halted due to fears of the rotor wash blowing would unhinge the BASE jumper from the mountain.
KCPS and Parks Canada completed a high rope rescue to secure the man and heli-slung him to safety. He was then transferred to local EMS and STARS air ambulance flew him to a hospital in Calgary.
A BASE jumper is someone who jumps from either a building, antenna, span or Earth with a parachute.
The rescue attempt, however, was delayed for at least 20 minutes when a paraglider with a lime green canopy launched and floated in the area of the rescue air space.
Resendiz Pineda eventually landed at Quarry Lake, Shugg said, where he was met by conservation officers and RCMP officers later attended.
KCPS’ public safety specialist Jeremy Mackenzie told the Outlook on Nov. 1 that having aircraft in the area of a rescue adds significant risk.
“We can't have other aircraft in the area in order to perform properly because we're focused on so many critical aspects of the work, you know, flying rescuers under a helicopter has a lot of inherent risks and we just want to remove all other distractions and all other potential hazards and limit what we need to manage,” said Mackenzie.
“So it was unfortunate that paraglider decided to enter our working air space and it actually did cause a real delay in our rescue at that point. The patient was still not secured in any way, he was still hanging on by a thread of his parachute and then we were delayed by operations because this paraglider was in our way.”
After Resendiz Pineda attempted to plead guilty and Shugg made her sentencing recommendation she had agreed to with Resendiz Pineda and his lawyer Mark Damm, Roginski adjourned the court for about 25 minutes to see if he was legally permitted to accept the decision.
When he returned, Roginski said he couldn’t accept the plea since Part 19 of the procedures regulation under the Justice of the Peace regulation allowed him to rise under the Provincial Parks Act when a specified penalty is set out.
Since the act didn’t have a specified penalty, he was unable to accept the guilty plea.
Shugg, a longtime Crown prosecutor, said she was “totally ambushed” by the decision, particularly since she said it was common for Justices of the Peace to accept such a recommendation.
“That would be news to me, sir, because we have done this in the past. … We’ve always done this,” she said when Roginski said it was out of his jurisdiction.
Shugg said in jurisdiction of justices 3(1) Subsection N of the Justice of the Peace regulation, she felt there was a “clear division” between the Provincial Parks Act and the regulations.
“I’ve seen it interpreted in the past. I’ve been here since 2003 and I’ve seen your colleagues take this as an indication they can make orders under that section because of the Provincial Parks Act," she said.
However, Roginski had a different interpretation that wouldn’t allow him to accept the plea.
“When I look at it, and I look at the rest and the Provincial Parks Act, it sets out very significant penalties in the general penalty section. … I believe it means I can only deal jurisdictionally with matters where there’s a specified penalty.
“It’s not that we’re reluctant to deal with Mr. Resendiz Pineda, there’s not much point in me making a dealing with this matter if I don’t have jurisdiction. … I appreciate it other people have interpreted it differently, but I have to interpret it as I see the correct interpretation.”
Had the guilty plea been accepted, $5,500 of the $6,000 would have gone to STARS Air Ambulance, which transported the BASE jumper to a Calgary hospital on Oct. 31.
When Resendiz Pineda spoke to Roginski, he noted his regret for delaying the rescue.
“I made a terrible mistake,” he told the court. “I’m terribly disappointed in myself.
“I love paragliding, but I made a terrible mistake,” he said, apologizing several times.
Resendiz Pineda, who said he is a system engineer in Calgary, also said he was working with the paragliding community to help educate people.
Resendiz Pineda declined comment to the Outlook after the court hearing.
“I want no part of this,” he said.
Roginski directed the judicial clerk to have Resendiz Pineda appear in court in Calgary Dec. 8 due to it having a provincial judge.