A 17-year-old girl suffered serious injuries Thursday when she was attacked by a shark while swimming off of a Florida beach.
Addison Bethea of Perry, Florida, was scooping up scallops off of Keaton Beach near Big Grassy Island when she was attacked, according to WCTV-TV.
Family members told the station that shark bit her several times and would not let go.
“It’s a tragedy, what’s happened,” Taylor County Sheriff Wayne Padgett said.
Rhett Willingham, her brother and a firefighter/EMT, fought off the shark with the help of nearby boaters, according to a press release from Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare.
The hospital said rescuers used a tourniquet to control the bleeding. The teen was airlifted to Tallahassee Memorial.
The hospital’s release said Bethea “has devastating damage to the soft tissue in her right leg.”
“The TMH trauma team stabilized her, and the trauma surgeon performed emergency surgery with a goal of restoring blood flow to her leg,” the release said.
“She will undergo a second surgery Saturday, July 2 to further investigate the extent of the damage to her leg and determine what treatment options are available with the goal of saving her leg,” the release said.
Shane Bethea, the injured girl’s father, summarized the incident in a Friday post on his Facebook page.
“The shark bit her once and then attacked her again on her right thigh. She tried poking it in the eyes and punching it but it would not turn loose. By the grace of God, she was with her brother Rhett Willingham, who is a first responder/firefighter, who acted quickly to literally fight off the shark and pull her away and into a nearby boat of an unknown person (thank you to whoever you are),” he posted.
TEEN ATTACKED BY SHARK: A Florida teen is speaking out after she was critically injured following a terrifying shark attack in shallow waters near northern Florida. @VictorOquendo reports. https://t.co/IzgAoGqwf1 pic.twitter.com/iB9e8UgB14
— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) July 2, 2022
“Rhett put a tourniquet on her leg to minimize blood loss to the massive injury and kept her awake, ultimately saving her life. Once the boat got back to Keaton beach, she was life-flighted to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital for emergency surgeries,” he posted.
She faced serious complications at the hospital, he said.
Doctors “had to remove a vein from her left leg to create an artery in the right to try and get blood flow reestablished to her foot and lower leg. The nerve on the back of the thigh was damaged severely. There is an unreal amount of damage to her thigh area. The doctors are unsure at this point as to the condition of the leg and want to take it day by day to see what will have to be done,” he posted.
“She’s been through more than I could ever imagine but she is being a trooper. Please pray for her and the difficulty of her days ahead. She isn’t out of the woods by any stretch, but she is alive and that’s what’s most important to us. We want to thank everyone that has texted, called, and prayed. I’m trying to respond to everyone but if I miss you, please forgive me. We appreciate all of the support and Addison wanted me to tell everyone Thank You as well,” he posted.
Tyler Bowling, program manager for the Florida Museum’s International Shark Attack File, said this was Taylor County’s first recorded shark attack.
The family said the attack took place in water that was about five feet deep, and that the shark was nine feet long.”
‘Swimmers and scallopers are cautioned to be alert, vigilant, and practice shark safety. Some rules to follow are: never swim alone, do not enter the water near fishermen, avoid areas such as sandbars (where sharks like to congregate), do not swim near large schools of fish, and avoid erratic movements while in the water,” the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook.
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