Teen who plummeted 3,000ft in skydiving accident wins $760,000 damages

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Makenzie Wethington sustained serious injuries and continues to suffer blackouts, memory loss and post-traumatic stress: Facebook

A Texas teenager who survived after plummeting 3,000 feet in a skydiving accident has won $760,000 (£600,000) in compensation.

Makenzie Wethington sustained serious injuries including bleeding on the brain and a broken pelvis when her parachute malfunctioned in January 2014.

A district judge ordered Robert Swainson, who owned the now-closed Pegasus Air Sports Center in Chickasha, to pay damages after Ms Wethington’s mother filed a negligence claim, according to the Oklahoman.

Judge Timothy DeGiusti ordered she receive $400,000 (£310,000) for physical pain and suffering, $350,000 (£275,000) for mental pain and suffering, and $10,000 (£8,000) for future medical expenses.

The lawsuit claimed she received inadequate training prior to the jump and that her parachute was not suited to her skill level. Both claims are contested by Swainson who argued instead that Ms Wethington had panicked and not followed correct procedure.

“I have been convinced that the reason for her accident was that she did not follow all of the instruction that she received by myself prior to the jump,” Swainson wrote in a court document in 2015.

“I believe that she panicked when things did not go exactly as expected and did nothing to correct it.”

In a 2014 report, the Federal Aviation Administration found Ms Wethington's parachute was in good working condition at the time of the jump.

However the judge agreed Ms Wethington had been given an inappropriate parachute for her skill level, saying: “The parachute assigned to her was too small and fast for a person of her young age and relative experience.”

Ms Wethington had wanted to skydive since she was a young child and her parents agreed to let her jump for her 16th birthday in Oklahoma - the only state that then allowed 16 year olds to jump alone. The US Parachuting Association has since increased the minimum national age across the US to 18.

“This crash and all of the injuries and my ongoing recovery will forever affect the rest of my life,” she told the court.

Ms Wethington, who is now studying to become a trauma surgeon, continues to suffer from the accident with headaches, panic attacks and short-term memory loss. She also suffers recurrent kidney infections which cause her to be hospitalised regularly.

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