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Skydiver, 16, survives 900m fall

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Tulsa - A 16-year-old American girl, who plummeted more than 900m to the ground in a skydiving accident, survived and is recovering from her many injuries, a doctor said on Tuesday.

Dr Jeffrey Bender, a trauma surgeon, said Makenzie Wethington hurt her liver and broke her pelvis, lumbar spine in her lower back, a shoulder blade and several ribs in Saturday's fall. She also has a broken tooth.

“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,” Bender told reporters.

The girl was in good condition, Bender said, and was expected to leave the intensive care unit.

The girl's parents let her jump, but her father, Joe Wethington, now says the skydiving company shouldn't have allowed it.

Nancy Koreen, director of sport promotion at the US Parachute Association, said its safety requirements allow someone who is 16 to make a dive with parental consent, though some places set the age higher.

Robert Swainson, the owner and chief instructor at Pegasus Air Sports Centre, defended the company, saying the father went up with his daughter and was the first to jump.

Swainson said Wethington's parachute opened okay, but she began to spiral downward when the chute went up but not out. He said divers were given instruction during a six-to-seven-hour training session on how to deal with such problems.

Swainson also said Makenzie had a radio hookup in her helmet through which someone gave her instructions.

“It was correctable, but corrective action didn't appear to have been taken,” he said.

Swainson said he did not jump out to help Wethington because there's no way he could have reached her, and another jumper got scared and refused to make the jump. Swainson said it was protocol for him to remain with the frightened person because instructors don't know what that person will do.

“The most I could have done is screamed,” he said.

Koreen didn't want to directly comment on Makenzie's case. She agreed that a reluctant diver can't be left alone in a plane and that even if an instructor exited the plane, he wouldn't have been able to assist the student.

“You can't fly over the parachute and help somebody,” she said.

Sapa-AP


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