Ray Villeda, NBC 5 News
Sixteen-year-old Makenzie Wethington who survived a 3,000-foot fall in a skydiving accident says she blacked out after her parachute malfunctioned and doesn't remember hitting the ground. She spoke from a wheelchair Thursday during a news conference at Baylor University Medical Center.
A 16-year-old North Texas girl who plummeted more than 3,500 feet to the ground in an Oklahoma sky diving accident last month publicly discussed her recovery for the first time Thursday.
Makenzie Wethington spoke to the media at the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation in Dallas Thursday morning.
"I would like to, first of all, thank God," the teen said at the start of the news conference.
Recalling how she came to be where she is, she said she simply started looking skydiving up online and became interested in giving it a try.
"For some reason I got online and started looking it up and saw that in Oklahoma you could be 16 with parent consent. I called my dad right away and said, 'Please, lets go skydiving,' and so we went," Wethington said. "I didn't know I was going to jump solo until we had already gone there and I found out later, so ... I would have rather gone tandem."
Wethington said she felt a rush of excitement when she leapt from the plane, but it turned to panic when her canopy malfunctioned and she was unable to correct it.
"I know I was scared and I know that there was something very wrong and I think I was focused on how I could fix it and what I could do. And just, I don't really know, I think was in shock, definitely," said Wethington.
Wethington crashed into the earth after falling more than 3,500 feet on Jan. 25 after she and her parents said she had an issue with her parachute. Her injuries included damage to her liver and a broken pelvis, a broken lumbar spine in her lower back, a broken shoulder blade and several broken ribs and teeth.
"She pretty much landed on her back. She couldnt catch her breath, thats why she had that scared look in her eyes, she couldn't catch her breath. She had [the] breath and wind knocked out of her," said her father, Joe Wethington. "I'll never forget the look on her face and how she looked when I was right up on her. It was horrific."
During the news conference, Wethington said she remembers nearly everything about the accident, including falling and kicking in midair before blacking out and hitting the ground.
"I don't think it really hit me after first waking up," Wethington said. She said the memories came back later.
During the news conference Thursday, Dr. Seema Sikka, who is leading Wethington's recovery effort, said the girl was walking with assistance and reiterated her opinion that Wethington is expected to fully recover.
"I've seen a lot of amazing things in my career, but I can't explain how someone survives this," said Sikka.
Wethington was transferred to the Dallas facility after spending about a week in an Oklahoma City hospital following the accident, but the teen said she doesn't remember much about Oklahoma.
"I saw my family sitting over me, sitting beside me. Thats all I really," said Wethington.
Recovery is going well for the teen, but she said the process can be frustrating, specifically with cognitive issues due to brain trauma.
"I think this is my second chance to do better than what I was doing in the future. In the future, I've always wanted to be a surgeon, and now I know I want specialize in trauma so I can relate to the patients more," said Westhington.
Looking back on the accident, Wethington did have some regrets — including not making her jump in tandem.
"I think there is a limit on what 16-year-olds can and can't do," Wethington said. She said sky diving was on her "bucket list" and that she pleaded with her mother to go.
Wethington's mother Holly agreed and called for changes in the age a person must be to sky-dive solo.
The owner of the Chickasha-based sky diving school said Wethington did not follow the training and that there was nothing wrong with her parachute.
NBC 5's Ray Villeda contributed to this report.