Girl survives 3000ft skydive plunge
Published 29/01/2014 | 02:02
A 16-year-old girl has amazed doctors by surviving a fall of more than 3,000 feet in a horrific skydiving accident.
Trauma surgeon Dr Jeffrey Bender said Makenzie Wethington hurt her liver, broke her pelvis, lumbar spine in her lower back, a shoulder blade and several ribs and a tooth in Saturday's fall in Chickasha, Oklahoma.
"I don't know the particulars of the accident, as I wasn't there. But if she truly fell 3,000 feet, I have no idea how she survived," Dr Bender, of OU Medical Centre in Oklahoma City, said.
He said Makenzie was expected to leave the hospital's intensive care unit.
The girl's parents let her jump, but her father, Joe Wethington, now says the skydiving company should not have allowed it.
Nancy Koreen, director of sport promotion at the US Parachute Association, said its safety requirements allow someone who is 16 to make a dive with parental consent, though some places set the age higher.
Robert Swainson, owner and chief instructor at Pegasus Air Sports Centre, defended the company, saying Makenzie's father went up with his daughter and was the first to jump.
Mr Swainson said Makenzie's parachute opened correctly but she began to spiral downward when the chute went up, but not out. He said divers were given instruction during a six-to-seven-hour training session on how to deal with such problems.
He also said Makenzie had a radio hook-up in her helmet through which someone gave her instructions.
"It was correctable, but corrective action didn't appear to have been taken," Mr Swainson said.
Mr Swainson said he did not jump out to help Makenzie because there was no way he could have reached her and another jumper got scared and refused to make the jump. Mr Swainson said it was protocol for him to remain with the frightened person because instructors do not know what that person will do.
"The most I could have done is screamed," he said.
Ms Koreen would not comment directly on Makenzie's case but agreed that a reluctant diver could not be left alone in a plane and that even if an instructor exited the aircraft, he would not have been able to help the student.
"You can't fly over the parachute and help somebody," she said.