Last Saturday, Mackenzie Washington fell 3,000 feet to the ground in a horrific skydiving accident when her parachute failed to open.
Miraculously, Mackenzie, 16, of Joshua, TX, survived.
But she did suffer terrible injuries including vertebrae trauma, multiple broken bones, and major internal injuries. She remains hospitalized at OU Medical Center, although doctors are optimistic that she will make a full recovery – eventually.
The skydiving accident occurred at Pegasus Air Sport in Chickasha, OK.
Mackenzie’s family believes that the accident was caused by a malfunction with the skydiving company’s automatic activation device which was supposed to automatically deploy Mackenzie’s parachute when she jumped out of the plane.
However, Pegasus Air Sport owner Bob Swainson argues that it was Mackenzie’s failure to take corrective action that caused her near-fatal freefall to the ground.
Skydiving Regulation is Lax
Mackenzie was a first-time skydiver and had received just six hours of pre-jump training before the accident occurred. While that might not sound like much, it is worth noting that just like the rollercoaster industry, the skydiving industry is only minimally regulated.
The United States Parachute Association has only advisory powers, and there are virtually no regulations on a state level either in Oklahoma or Texas. However, the Federal Aviation Association does have some oversight given that the sport necessitates the involvement of aircraft.
A thorough investigation into how Mackenzie’s accident was allowed to occur must now take place. Definitive answers must be given to the multiple questions this accident has raised.
A Legal Right to Damages?
As a board certified child injury lawyer, I would strongly urge Mackenzie’s parents to take a close look at any waiver or liability release that they signed prior to the accident.
Under Texas law, for example, compensation may still be sought against the negligent party even after a waiver was signed when the waiver was signed by a parent on behalf of a minor child – something any parent who finds themselves being asked to sign a pre-event release should be aware of!
On behalf of everyone here at the Anderson Law Firm, I wish Mackenzie a full and speedy recovery.