TULSA, Okla. -- The U.S. Parachute Association will increase the minimum age for first-time skydivers nationwide to 18 years starting May 1, replacing a provision that allowed younger teens to jump with parental consent.
But USPA spokeswoman Nancy Koreen says the change was not prompted by what happened to 16-year-old Makenzie Wethington of Joshua, Texas.
She was critically injured in January after her father took her to Oklahoma for a sky dive. Oklahoma allows 16-year-olds to jump with parental consent. Wethington’s chute failed to fully deploy and she fell 3,500 feet to the ground, but survived.
The USPA board voted to raise the minimum age staring May 1. Licensed skydivers who are younger than 18 will still be allowed to jump.
In an email to The Associated Press, Koreen said raising the age limit has been an issue that the USPA and the skydiving industry "have been struggling with the past couple of years."
The USPA says there were 24 skydiving fatalities last year, out of 3.2 million jumps.
Koreen says skydiving equipment manufacturers have already instituted 18 as the minimum age for use of their gear "in reaction to an increasingly litigious society."
Makenzie Wethington continues to make a remarkable recovery. According to her Facebook page, she is now walking without a walker, and no longer wearing her neck/back brace.