Makenzie Wethington is recovering in an Oklahoma hospital after her parachute malfunctioned and she fell 3,500 feet to the ground. A T-shirt drive has been
Makenzie Wethington is recovering in an Oklahoma hospital after her parachute malfunctioned and she fell 3,500 feet to the ground. A T-shirt drive has been initiated to help pay her medical bills. ((Joshua Star/Courtesy Wethington Family))
The Joshua community is rallying around a 16-year-old Joshua High School student who is recovering from a skydiving accident in which she fell 3,500 feet after her parachute malfunctioned.

Family members say she shouldn't be alive.

According to the family's Facebook page, Makenzie Wethington went skydiving Saturday in Oklahoma for her birthday.



At most Texas skydiving facilities, skydivers must be 18 years old to participate. Makenzie's older sister, Meagan Wethington, said on the family's Facebook page that it was always Makenzie's dream to skydive. Their father took her to Oklahoma, where Makenzie could skydive with parental consent at age 16.

"She kept texting me [about] how much she loved me and I told her I loved her too, but nothing was going to happen to her," Meagan wrote. "I waited and waited and I finally got a call from my dad who was crying."

Family members say Makenzie's parachute did not open after it became tangled. The teen tumbled to earth where air ambulance took her immediately to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City. 

Doctors told the family Makenzie suffered a broken vertebrae in her back, broken pelvis and bleeding in her brain, lungs and liver.

Meagan said that hours after the accident, Makenzie responded to their mother's voice by moving, kicking and trying to pull a breathing tube out of her throat.

"The doctors had to restrain her after that, but it was a very good sign she had woken," Meagan said. 
"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," said Dr. Jeffrey Bender, a trauma surgeon at OU Medical Center who treated Makenzie, during a Tuesday news conference.

Makenzie's parents, who also spoke during the conference, said they now believe the skydiving company shouldn't have allowed Makenzie to jump alone.

"I don't think she should have been allowed at [age] 16 to go up there and perform that type of jump, no matter what I say or she says, she shouldn't have been allowed," Makenzie's father, Joe Wethington, said at the news conference. "I find it very hard to believe that the rules and regulations in Oklahoma are that lax. I think there is a flaw there somewhere, and I don't think it's through the state of Oklahoma. I think it's the company. I'm not sure."

Robert Swainson, the owner of the skydiving company, Pegasus Air Sports, told The Associated Press Tuesday that Makenzie's parachute opened, but malfunctioned after she performed what's called "static-line jump" — wherein a parachute opens automatically after the skydiver exits the plane.

Swainson said that Makenzie and other participants were given instructions on what to do in an emergency situation during a several-hours training session before the jump. He said what happened could have been corrected, but "corrective action didn't appear to have been taken."

In the meantime, Makenzie, who was expected to leave the ICU Wednesday, will not have to undergo surgery because doctors believe her body will heal on its own, Meagan said. 

Joshua ISD Superintendent Fran Marek said the JISD community is rallying around the teen.

"We have some students that are putting together some fundraisers and as a district we support that," Marek said. "I had a parent [Angie and Mike Erinakes] call me Monday and say that there were some students doing T-shirt sales."

Allison Gilmore and Danielle Erinakes, two of Makenzie's friends, designed and started selling T-shirts to help the Wethington family with medical costs.

The girls said they were in shock when they heard about the accident.

“When I first found out about what happened, I was very sad and upset,” Allison said. “But I feel like everyone needs to put trust in God and let God take care of her.”

Allison said selling T-shirts would be an easy way to show Makenzie that people cared about her. 
T-shirts cost $10, and 50 percent of the profits go to Makenzie's family. Allison and Danielle said they are trying to make that percentage higher, however, and would like to see it be closer to 60 or 70 percent as more T-shirt orders come in.

“The T-shirt is hot pink, which represents Makenzie because it's her favorite color,” Danielle said. “Her name also has a bow on it because you never catch her without a bow and a smile.”

Hundreds of T-shirts had been ordered within a few hours of starting the fundraiser.

“It just warms the heart to see the community wanting to contribute and help Makenzie out in any way possible,” Danielle said.

Although Makenzie has a long road to recovery ahead of her, her friends and family seem optimistic.

“Makenzie is coherent and has been for the past day,” Allison said Tuesday. “I haven't been able to talk to her yet, but I've texted her and she's texted me back. She's been on Twitter, and she's talked to her family and the doctors.

“I talked to Meagan, and she said Makenzie should be leaving the Oklahoma hospital in two weeks hopefully, and will be transferred to a Fort Worth hospital and would be there another few weeks."

T-shirt order forms are available at Joshua High School or on Makenzie's update/prayer page on Facebook, where the latest news on her progress is available.

A Wells Fargo bank account has also been set up for the family under the name "Makenzie Wethington Donation Fund."