Mackenzie Wethington: Teen recovering from near-death skydiving accident
Ed Lavandera, CNN
11:46 AM, Jan 29, 2014
7:36 PM, Jan 29, 2014
A 16-year-old Texas girl is recovering from a near-fatal skydiving accident.
To celebrate her 16th birthday, Mackenzie Wethington wanted to take the plunge of a lifetime, a skydiving adventure with her father.
But it almost killed her.
Based out of Pegasus Air Sport Center in Chickasha, Oklahoma, Mackenzie jumped from 3,500 feet.
Her father says as he watched from the ground, his daughter's parachute didn't fully open and she started to spiral down.
"She's going too fast and in different directions. The guy on 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," said her father Joe Wethington.
Mackenzie's family says she might have blacked out in the fall, but she survived.
The injuries left her fighting for her life: a broken vertebrae and pelvis and internal bleeding. But she's not paralyzed.
And if you're wondering how a 16-year-old makes her first sky diving jump alone, the U.S. Parachute Association says it's not uncommon.
The association's affiliated skydiving schools, like the one Mackenzie used, sets the minimum jumping age at 16, if they have a parent's permission, like Mackenzie did.
Mackenzie performed what's called a "static-line" jump, common for first timers.
A yellow cord connects from the jumper's parachute to the airplane. And as the diver falls, the line snaps and the parachute opens.
The owner of Pegasus Air Sports Center in Oklahoma suspects Mackenzie didn't follow the training guidelines properly.
"The parachute appeared to open ok. Soon after opening, the parachute started to rotate. Tthere 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 down to the ground and hurt herself," said Bob Swainson, owner of Pegasus Air Sports Center.
Mackenzie Wethington is in a Oklahoma hospital recovering from this near-death experience.