Lawmaker working to change skydiving laws after teen falls 3,500 feet in Oklahoma

Posted on: 6:40 am, January 31, 2014, by

CHICKASHA, Okla. – NewsChannel Four is learning more about the recovery of a 16-year-old girl who survived a skydiving mishap over the skies of Chickasha.

Earlier this week NewsChannel 4 was the first to tell you about Makenzie Wethington’s accident while making a birthday jump to celebrate her 16th birthday.

Something went terribly wrong during the jump and left Makenzie with numerous broken bones all over her body.

Wednesday she stood for the first time since her accident.

During a press conference Thursday evening her mother talked about nightmares and the toll this has taken on her daughter.

“The things that she’s said while she’s sleeping make me want to cry,” Holly Wethington said.

Friday Makenzie and her parents will leave Oklahoma and head to a rehabilitation facility in their home state of Texas.

However, here in Oklahoma the investigation into what went wrong continues.

Since Makenzie’s incident several people have come forward about their skydiving accidents and now state lawmakers are looking at ways to help prevent them from happening again.

Skydiving is at the top of a lot of people’s bucket lists.

The adrenaline rush is what got EJ Hagar interested.

His first skydiving adventure went fine but the second time left him with a severed spine.

It is a miracle he is walking today.

“Because with a severed spine it’s very close to paralysis and if I would have twisted or moved the wrong way, I would have been should have been paralyzed,” Hagar said.

When Hagar heard about Makenzie Wethington’s story he immediately remembered his experience.

“It brought back a lot of memories of when I jumped at the same spot at Pegasus,” he said.

Hagar’s accident happened at the same skydiving facility as Makenzie’s.

Hagar says another man who was on the same jump broke his leg but Hagar, at the time, had no idea just badly he was hurt.

“I knew that I was injured. In the training they teach you that when you land you give them the wave that all is OK,” he said. “I didn’t give them that wave. I didn’t realize my back was severed.”

Hagar’s wife ended up taking him to the hospital.

He was immediately strapped down, underwent surgery and eventually physical therapy.

He hired an attorney but because of the waiver he signed before his jump, the case never went anywhere.

Hagar said he does not know if he can prove anything went wrong during the jump.

“I think the training they provide did not prepare me for the jump that I was doing,” Hagar said. “I didn’t get any communication on my way down, and the winds were very unstable that day.”

As it stands right now, there is no agency watching over the skydiving businesses in our state.

A person does not have to have a certification or license to run such a service.

This means anyone can call themselves a skydiving instructor, open a business and then drop people from thousands of feet in the air.

Makenzie Wethington’s accident happened in Grady County.

Attorney Scott Biggs is the state representative for that area and says he is not aware of any laws involving skydiving practices.

We contacted him and he is now working to change that.

“This was a terrible accident,” Biggs said. “It opens the eyes and makes people take a look, and that’s exactly what we’re doing at this point is taking a look.”

There is an organization called the United States Parachute Association that sets forth recommended guidelines for skydiving instructors to follow but it is not governed by the state and membership is only voluntary.