Teen Who Survived Parachute Plunge 'Fell in God's Hand,' Dad Says

PHOTO: In this file photo, Joe Wethington, left, and Makenzie Wethington, right, are pictured.
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Joe Wethington is blaming the parachute equipment that sent his daughter plunging to the ground, but said she survived because she "fell in God's hand."

Wethington’s daughter, Makenzie, 16, is recovering after falling 3,500 feet – more than half a mile – in a skydiving mishap Saturday in Oklahoma. The Joshua, Texas, resident shattered her spine, ribs and pelvis in the fall.

“Makenzie jumped out of a plane, but she fell in God’s hands,” her father said at a press conference Tuesday at OU Medical Center, where Makenzie is being treated.

Dr. Jeffrey Bender, who's been treating Makenzie, says her injuries look as if she was hit by a car going 50 miles an hour.

“When I first saw her in the emergency department, I would have predicted she was not going to survive all of this,” Bender said.

Joe Wethington made the same jump directly ahead of his daughter on Saturday, a gift for the teen’s 16th birthday. The family drove three hours to Oklahoma to skydive because 16-year-olds can skydive there with parental consent. In Texas, the age requirement is 18.

Despite Makenzie’s age, her father says she didn’t do anything wrong.

“We went to the class, which was inadequate. The equipment is inadequate,” he said.

Bob Swainson, the owner of Pegasus Air Sports in Chickasha, Okla., who took the Wethingtons up for their jump, denied there was anything wrong with the parachute or other gear.

“I’m sorry about the girl who got hurt,” Swainson said. “I don’t feel that there was anything largely wrong with our equipment.”

Swainson says Makenzie, for some reason, did not follow the instructions he was giving her during the jump. He believes the jump suffered a “toggle fire” -- a malfunction in which part of the chute’s harness becomes tangled -- almost as soon as the tether yanked her parachute open.

As the parachute’s harness remained tangled, Makenzie spiraled toward the earth.

“The problems she possibly had, the turning parachute, in my view was a relatively minor problem. I’ve seen many times before over the years,” Swainson said.

“It would’ve been easily correctable.”

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