DALLAS — A 16-year-old Texas girl who plummeted more than 3,000 feet to the ground in a skydiving accident last month in Oklahoma said today that she remembers screaming and then blacking out when she was unable to correct a malfunction with her parachute.
Makenzie Wethington, whose injuries included damage to her liver and a kidney, some bleeding in her brain, and a broken pelvis, lumbar spine in her lower back, shoulder blade and several ribs, spent a about a week after the Jan. 25 accident at a Chickasha skydiving school at an Oklahoma City hospital before being transferred to Dallas.
“I remember jumping out of the plane and looking up and seeing that there was a complication with the parachute and so I started kicking my feet like I was taught in the class and I looked up and it still wasn’t fixing so I tried to pull the toggles apart,” Wethington, who is from the small town of Joshua, said at a news conference at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. “I just was not strong enough to fight off the wind. I just remember screaming and then I blacked out and I don’t remember anything after that, for three days after.”
“I know I was scared and I know that there was something very wrong. I think I was focused on how I could fix it and what I could do,” she said, adding, “I think I went into shock.”
Dr. Seema Sikka, who is treating Wethington at Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation, said she expects Wethington to make a full recovery, noting the teen is already walking “a good amount” with a walker. Sikka said Wethington may be released from the hospital in about a week. After that she’ll continue to need various outpatient therapies.
“I’m good. I feel good. I’m doing better every day,” said Wethington, who was in a wheelchair and had a neck brace, adding, “I’m very thankful that I can move as well as I can.
Her parents agreed to allow her to skydive as a 16th birthday present, and her father jumped ahead of her. Wethington said she had wanted to go skydiving for years and had convinced her parents to let her do it after learning someone could skydive at the age of 16 in Oklahoma with parental consent.
The owner of the skydiving school has said the parachute opened, but Wethington began to spiral downward when the chute went up but not out in some kind of malfunction. The owner has said Wethington and other divers were given instruction beforehand on how to deal with such problems.
Wethington said she wasn’t scared as she jumped.
“I remember getting in the plane and feeling that rush of excitement,” she said.
Her father, Joe Wethington, said that when he ran up to her where she’d fallen in a cow pasture, the teenager couldn’t catch her breath and had a frightened look on her face.
“Every time she would catch a breath she would just scream and ask me to rub her back,” he said.
Makenzie Wethington said she’s always wanted to be a surgeon, but her experience after being injured has made her want to focus on being a trauma surgeon.
When asked if she ever wanted to skydive again, she replied: “As much as I would like to, I think that my parents and the rest of my family would die if I did. They’re against that now.”