A shark attack on a Florida beach resulted in the survival of a 17-year-old girl owing to her tenacity and her brother’s fast thinking.
Grassy Island, right off Keaton Beach, is where Addison Bethea was scalloping when a shark bit her.
‘And then the next thing I know, something hooks onto my leg, and I was like, ‘That’s not right,'” she says. On Good Morning America, the teenager said, “And then I look, and it’s a huge old shark.”
When a shark attacks, you’re meant to punch the creature in the nose, but Addison couldn’t get to the beast’s snout because of the manner it bit her. Still, she fought it with her own hands and attempted to remove it from her leg.
Addison’s brother, Rhett Willingham, leaped into the water when he saw her bleeding.
In the aftermath, he recalls seeing “blood and everything,” as well as a shark.
“So I swam over there, grabbed her, and pulled them all apart, attempting to keep them apart. And he didn’t stop there. That’s when I grabbed her, swam backwards and kicked him before screaming for assistance.”
Rhett, a 22-year-old EMT and fireman in Taylor County, fought like a shark to save his sister. A few moments after she was released, she was taken by him and put aboard his boat.
Rhett moved Addison to the stranger’s boat when a passing boater observed them in trouble and offered to assist.
He fashioned a 4-foot tourniquet from a boat rope to stop the bleeding and wrapped it around her upper right leg. Rhett used the boat to return to shore after calling for an ambulance.
Addison had to be evacuated 80 miles away to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, where she was originally placed in serious condition due to her terrible injuries.
She was saved by emergency surgery and is now recovering. Unfortunately, her right leg was severely damaged.
According to Addison’s father, Shane, “the shark attacked her right leg, the front quad muscle was totally demolished.”
“It was horrible, a bad, nasty wound,” he says. Right leg blood flow was restored when vascular surgeons converted the left leg vein into an artery.”
Doctors are attempting to keep her leg attached to her hip rather than amputating it. Her lower leg may have to be amputated, but surgeons hope to salvage enough tissue to use for prosthesis.
The fact that she is still breathing is the most important thing. Shane commented.
Addison isn’t giving up hope despite the terrifying experience she just had. Her friends also came to see her in the intensive care unit.
As soon as she woke up, she started using her phone to communicate with us.” Shane commented on Facebook that “she was in fantastic spirits and making jokes about beating up the shark.”
Addison requested a Frosty from Wendy’s as the first item she asked for.
In order to further understand the degree of the teen’s injury and identify what treatment options are available, she will have a second operation.
According to the sheriff’s office, Addison was attacked by a 9-foot-long shark, but it’s not clear what kind of shark it was.
All swimmers and scallopers in the vicinity were also given safety instructions.
The sheriff’s office warned swimmers and scallopers to be “alert, vigilant, and practice shark safety.”
As a general guideline, never swim alone, stay away from fishermen, avoid sandbars and huge schools of fish, and avoid making erratic movements in the water when in water.
Please mail a check with “Addison Bethea” in the memo to the Buckeye Community Federal Credit Union, 1825 S. Jefferson St., Perry, Florida, 32348, to help with Addison’s medical expenses.