Former Skydiving School Owner Denies Blame In 2014 Accident « CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

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DALLAS (1080 KRLD) – The former owner of the Pegasus Air Sports Center of Chickasha, Oklahoma, has denied responsibility for the January 2014 near-fatal parachuting accident involving a Joshua teenager.

Makenzie Wethington was 16-years-old when she attempted a solo jump, a birthday present from her parents. Her parachute cords became entangled, sending her into a high-speed spiral for 3,500 feet. Wethington survived but suffered broken bones and a spleen injury.

Robert Swainson, owner of the school, denies blame, one week after a Federal Judge in Oklahoma City approved a $760,000 judgment against him.

“I’m not responsible and I don’t have the assets anyway,” he said.

To the contrary, he put the blame on Wethington and her family, brushing aside claims that Wethington was too young to jump solo on her first skydiving venture.

“She’s 16,” mother Holly Wethington said in 2014. “She was jumping out of an airplane for the first time at 3,500 feet.”

(credit: KTVT/KTXA)

Oklahoma law allows 16 and 17-year-olds to take skydiving class if they have their parent’s consent. Court documents show Makenzie Wethington signed a document that reflected a check mark in a box called “First Jump Student.” There is a separate box for a tandem jump that was unchecked. A separate document, called “agreement, the release of liability and acknowledgment of risk” is signed and notarized by mother Holly. The document reflects an acknowledgment of 10 different risks of injury or death. Each is initialed by Makenzie’s mother.

The record is in contrast to family statements that the jump was supposed to be a tandem jump. In a tandem jump, the student and instructor are cinched together in a single parachute harness. Swainson says he never made any such claim.

“I mentioned at that time there was no tandem jumping taking place,” he said. “It was strictly static line, which is strictly a solo course. That is on my website.”

The release of liability seemed to doom the part of the lawsuit that Wethington’s parents brought against Swainson.

“They lost their claim because they signed a release before they did the event,” said Wethington family attorney Robert Haslam. “The judge found, under Oklahoma law, if you sign a release you cannot then sue for negligence or damages in this kind of case.”

Last week, Federal Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti signed a $760,000 judgment against Swainson. The award is for pain and suffering by Makenzie Wethington. But Swainson says they won’t collect a dime.

“Miss Weatherington (sic) is never going to get anything from me,” he said. “I don’t feel I was responsible. I think she messed up. Her parents messed up because they allowed her to jump when she may not have been mentally or physically suited to it. I feel they knew her better than I do. I only knew when I saw her on…

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