'God caught her': Teenage girl survives 3,500ft fall after birthday skydiving trip almost turned to tragedy when her parachute failed to open
Makenzie Wethington broke her pelvis, spine, shoulder, several ribs and a tooth in the fall
A 16-year-old girl has astonished doctors by surviving a 3,500ft fall after her parachute failed to open properly.
Makenzie Wethington, of Joshua, Texas, was given a skydiving trip to Oklahoma as a gift from her father on her 16th birthday. But the celebration nearly turned to tragedy after her primary parachute failed to open.
Makenzie's older sister Meagan told FOXdfw that the parachute became tangled or failed to open properly during the jump.
She also told the US TV station that instructors had attempted to talk her through opening the chute but the girl stopped responding to instructions and may have lost consciousness.
According to trauma surgeon Dr Jeffrey Bender, Makenzie 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.
Her father, Joe, who jumped first, landed safely and watched as his daughter spiralled out of control and smashed into the ground in Oklahoma, USA.
He subsequently blamed the skydiving company for allowing his daughter to jump.
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.
He told an Oklahoma TV station that the parachute opened "halfway" before he had to watch his daughter's struggle and spiraling freefall to the ground.
"She hit the ground hard," Meagan Wethington said. "God caught her."
Makenzie and her father before the jump
Meagen said her dad and sister sat through six hours of training before the 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.
Although a remarkable survival story it is by no means the only example.
Last year Victor Bryie survived a 9,000-foot fall in Florida, after his parachute became tangled in a friend's during a jump.
Bryie and his jump partner were attempting a maneuver which involves one diver holding the canopy of another's parachute.
Additional reporting by AP
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