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January 28, 2014

Owner of Pegasus Sports says injured skydiver's parachute opened

CHICKASHA — The owner of Pegasus Sports Center in Chickasha said the parachute used by a 16-year-old girl who was injured in a sky diving accident on Jan. 25 did open.

"The shoot fully opened, but had a slight turn in it," said Bob Swainson, owner of Pegasus Sports Center. "I'm not sure if it happened when opening or by the skydiver, but the parachute turned left and continued turning all the way down."

Texas native Makenzie Wethington allegedly fell 3,500 feet after the incident.  

Swainson said the girl and her father took a safety class with him prior to the accident. He said in the class he covers this possibility and speaks about how to handle it directly.

"We liken it to a car," said Swainson. "If a car starts pulling to the left, then you turn to the right. As malfunctions go it was fairly innocuous."

Chickasha Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Brian Zalewski said CFD was on the scene of the accident by 5:07 p.m after receiving the call at 4:52 p.m. Friend Fire Station representatives were first on the scene.

"The patient departed the scene at 5:51 p.m.," said Zalewski. "Due to the extend of the patient's injuries the paramedics made the decision to fly her to a level one trauma center."

Swainson said he was contacted by the girl's father a few weeks ago.

"Texas has a state regulation preventing 16 and 17-year-olds from jumping alone," said Swainson. "The national rule for skydiving is 16, so consequently I get a lot of people who want to sky dive and they come up here as we are the closest to Texas."

Swainson said he wouldn't be surprised if this incident led to a lawsuit.

"I'd actually be more surprised if a lawsuit didn't happen," he said. "If we get to that stage more technical questions will have to be asked and I hope the family will have experienced people to advise them on the technical side. Until then we are dealing with people who don't know one end of the parachute from the other.

Zalewski said CFD has responded to incidents at Pegasus Sports Center 13 times since digital recording starting in 2001.

Swainson said he has been in this industry for 46 years.

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