A Texas woman has been awarded $760,000 after she was badly injured in a skydiving accident in Oklahoma.
Makenzie Wethington was 16 in January 2014 when her parachute malfunctioned and she fell more than 3,000 feet to the ground in Chickasha. Her 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 and several teeth.
Court records show the now-19-year-old Wethington of Joshua, Texas, was awarded $760,000 last week.
Robert Swainson, the owner of now-closed Pegasus Air Sports in Chickasha, has said he believes Wethington panicked and didn’t follow instructions. The lawsuit said the teenager wasn’t properly trained and that her parachute was inappropriate for her skill level.
According to federal investigators, the parachute worn by the 16-year-old skydiver was found to be in good working condition at the time of her jump.
She went skydiving in Oklahoma with her father to celebrate her birthday. Her parachute malfunctioned soon after she jumped from the plane and she was unable to correct the problem.
The Federal Aviation Administration did not pursue a civil case against Pegasus Air Sports Center in Chickasha, Oklahoma, where Wethington made her skydive.
FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said investigators found no evidence of any safety violations by Pegasus.
“We make no findings of blame and draw no conclusions beyond verifying the condition of the parachute,” Lunsford added in an email.
The FAA said the parachute opened with twisted lines, a malfunction that can be corrected if the skydiver kicks in the opposite direction of the twists. An instructor used a radio to remind the teenager how to untangle the lines, but she panicked and was unable to correct the problem, according to the report.
“She started spiraling and picked up speed,” said Jacob Martinez, the radio operator.
Bob Swainson, owner of Pegasus Air Sports, told the FAA that Wethington “was not doing any of the commands that he gave her to try to stop the spin.”