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Case closed: FAA clears Chickasha company of wrongdoing in skydiving accident

CHICKASHA, Okla. – Almost six months after suffering severe injuries during a skydiving accident, a 16-year-old Texas teenager is still recovering.

In January, 16-year-old Makenzie Wethington wanted to go skydiving.

In Texas, skydiving laws require customers be at least 18-years-old before stepping inside the plane.

However, Oklahoma allows 16-year-olds to make the jump and that’s when Wethington found Pegasus Air Sport in Chickasha.

Her excitement turned to panic when her parachute malfunctioned and she plummeted 3,500 feet to the ground.

“I remember jumping out of the plane and looking up and seeing there was a complication with the parachute, so I started kicking my feet like I was taught in the class,” says Makenzie. “I looked up and it still wasn’t fixing so I tried to pull the togs apart and I just was not strong enough to fight off the wind. So, I just remember screaming and I blacked out.”

She suffered injuries to her pelvis, lumbar spine, shoulder-blade, ribs and teeth.

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Her father said only half of the parachute opened as his daughter spiraled to the ground.

“I looked up and it still wasn’t fixing,” Makenzie said, “so I tried to pull the togs apart and I just was not strong enough to fight off the wind. So, I just remember screaming and I blacked out.”

Amazingly, she is expected to make a full recovery and is already back on her feet.

The owner of Pegasus Air Sports, Bob Swainson, had this to say after the accident:

“The jumper left the airplane… the parachute appeared to open OK. Soon after the opening, the parachute started to rotate. There are a number of technical reasons why that could have happened, possibly caused by the jumper herself. The jumper didn’t sort out the rotation in accordance with the training she received earlier and continued to rotate to the ground and hurt herself.”

Tuesday, a FAA report on their investigation backed up some of Swainson’s comments on the parachute.

“…a senior rigger… indicated that the parachute appeared to not have very many jumps on it. (Expert) did not find any discrepancies with the parachute.”

The FAA’s public affairs office said “In this case, the investigators found nothing that warranted opening an enforcement case against the operator for safety violations.

“The document… is what amounts to the official report in the FAA’s safety management system, concluding that the parachute was in good shape.

“We make no findings of blame and draw no conclusions beyond verifying the condition of the parachute.”

In February, Makenzie’s father, Joe Wethington, told us he’ll never forget the horrific look on his daughter’s face after the accident.


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