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USD student studying abroad injured in New Zealand skydiving accident

Posted at 5:21 PM, Jan 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-24 21:03:34-05

NEW ZEALAND (KGTV) - A University of San Diego student studying abroad in New Zealand is facing a long recovery after a terrible skydiving accident.

Kate Morris was a tad nervous. Her friend Beatriz Martinez-Martin was relaxed that morning two weeks ago. The two USD students were a week into a three-week study abroad program, before deciding to do something not sanctioned by the school: skydiving.

"Scenery is gorgeous. I figured if I'm going to do something crazy, might as well do it now," said Martinez, 19.

Martinez went first with an instructor. Morris was next, with her own tandem. Morris was the first to land, gently gliding to the ground. But the smiles would soon disappear as Martinez came in for her landing.

"Her guide screamed as they hit the ground. Beatriz' head was down," said Morris.

"At the end a gust of wind picked us up and dropped us. We landed super hard. My tandem was screaming in so much pain. People were running towards us. I was gasping for help. Had the wind knocked out of me," said Martinez.

Martinez slammed into the ground on her backside. Martinez and her tandem were rushed to a hospital, each with a fracture in the spine. Martinez shattered her L3 segment. Pieces of bone touched her spinal cord. Her doctors and nurses stood in disbelief.

"They in shock I wasn't paralyzed. Something was on my side," said Martinez.

After on a long surgery, Martinez still faces weeks of recovery in New Zealand before she can head home, where many months of physical therapy await. She is expected to make a full recovery.

New Zealand's expansive health care system is covering her medical costs, but she will face expenses when she returns. A Gofundme campaign has been set up to help her.