A Texas teen was seriously injured during a skydiving accident over the weekend after she failed to open her backup chute following problems with her initial parachute. Doctors were baffled after she survived a fall from thousands of feet in the air, and are saying they have no idea how the girl made it out alive.
Multiple sources report that 16-year-old Mackenzie Wethington was skydiving with her father on Saturday in Oklahoma, where the age of consent for skydiving is two years earlier than Texas’ minimum age requirement of 18, when something went horribly wrong with her parachute. After she jumped and her parachute opened via an automatic system, she went into a spiral.
According to the National Post, Wethington and the other skydivers were given instructions beforehand on how to correct a parachute during a situation like that. A spokesperson for the parachute company, Pegasus Air Sports Center, also said that someone on the ground radioed to Wethington and walked her through how to correct the problem, but that the “corrective action didn’t appear to have been taken.”
"The guy with the radio on the ground is trying to talk her out of what's going on and telling her what to do and she can't do it," Joe Wethington, Mackenzie Wethington’s father, told CNN. "She's going too fast and in different directions she can't reach up and grab it anyway and then when she goes into the spiral he keeps telling her to cut away to release the shoot and to pull the reserve."
The teen, who is from Joshua, Texas, plummeted more than 3,000 feet to the ground. According to information provided by Mackenzie Wethington’s family on a Facebook page tracking her recovery, the 16-year-old was quickly airlifted to OU Medical in Oklahoma City where trauma surgeons began to treat her.
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The fall left the Wethington, who was celebrating her birthday, with a broken pelvis, damaged liver, a broken spine and shoulder blade, among other injuries. Doctors were astounded that she survived.
"I don't know the particulars of the accident as I wasn't there,” Dr. Jeffrey Bender, a trauma surgeon at OU Medical Center who treated Mackenzie Wethington when she was flown in Saturday, said via a hospital news conference. “But if she truly fell 3,000 feet, I have no idea how she survived.”
The family said despite her serious injuries, their daughter is faring well. "Amazingly enough, she required no surgery for any of those injuries," Bender said.
According to the United States Parachute Association, the sport of skydiving has improved its safety record over the years. In 2012, there were 3.1 million jumps in the U.S., 19 of which ended in fatalities.
Forty years ago, the sport averaged over 42 skydiving death per year, with far fewer people skydiving at that time.