Texas Teen Survives 3,500 Foot Skydiving Accident Fall In Chickasha

Tuesday, January 28th 2014, 10:43 pm
By: News 9

A skydiving trip to Chickasha quickly turns into a nightmare for a Texas teenager as she free falls 3,500 feet on Saturday.

The family of Makenzie Wethington, 16, said the parachute malfunctioned, but the skydiving company denies the claim. Now, she's hospitalized at OU Medical Center in Norman with severe injuries.

What happened after Makenzie Wethington took that leap Saturday afternoon is up for debate. The owner of Pegasus Air Sports Center in Chickasha is also the instructor and was inside the plane as she jumped.

The instructor told News 9 he was also supposed to jump but stayed on board because a third person no longer wanted to go.

Meanwhile, Makenzie was doing a spiraling free fall to the ground.

"It was real scary in the beginning," Makenzie's father, Joseph Wethington, said.

911 Dispatcher: 911, what's your emergency?

Caller: I just had a first time jumper get hurt out here at Pegasus Air Sport in Chickasha, Oklahoma. She came down pretty hard under a canopy, that's all I can see.

"She don't remember anything, she blacked out," Wethington said.

It was a dream come true for Makenzie. She and her father took pictures just minutes before their experience of a lifetime.

The birthday dream became a nightmare 3,500 feet in the air.

"She was rocking this way because only half of the canopy did not extend," Wethington said.

Joseph made the jump before his daughter. He said at first he thought the person free falling towards the ground was the guy who was supposed to go in front of Makenzie.

"Please please, God don't be Makenzie. And it was," Wethington said.

"I did have a gut feeling. Talked to her right before she went on the airplane and told her to text me as soon as she hit the ground," Makenzie's mother, Holly Wethington, said.

Two hours later, Makenzie's mother heard nothing.

Joseph said they were trained on what's called the "static line jump." A cord is attached to one end of the plane, the other end to the jumper. The parachute is supposed to open automatically.

"The parachute opened completely," Bob Swainson, owner of Pegasus Air Sports Center said.

Swainson said it wasn't the parachute that caused Makenzie to spiral violently out of control.

"At some point during the course of the opening or soon afterwards within a few seconds, the parachute started to turn to the left," Swainson said.

According to Swainson, Makenzie was supposed to turn in the opposite direction. He also added the reserve parachute was never activated.

"We were under the impression that we were doing a tandem jump, that she would be on somebody's back," Wethington said.

But Makenzie made the jump alone.

"I felt like there was an elephant sitting on me. I couldn't breathe. It was the longest trip I've ever taken," Holly Wethington said.

Makenzie was transferred out of the intensive care unit Tuesday. Doctors expect her to make a full recovery in about six to eight weeks. Makenzie's parents call her recovery so far nothing short of a miracle.

"If she truly fell 3,000 feet, I have no idea how she survived," said OU Trauma Surgeon, Jeffrey Bender. "When I first saw her in the emergency department, I would have predicted that she would not have survived all of this."

Bender said Makenzie has a broken pelvis, lumbar spine, a broken shoulder, tooth, and several broken ribs. Amazingly, she required no surgery for any of her injuries.

The U.S. Parachute Association is currently investigating the accident.