Florida girl ‘punched, poked’ shark in the eye before brother fought it off, father says

Addison Bethea, a teenage girl, was shelling with her family at Keaton Beach in Taylor County when a ten-foot shark wrapped his jaw around her thigh Thursday afternoon.

Bethea, 17, tried to “poke it in the eye and punch it,” but the shark with its teeth deep into her leg wouldn’t stop.

Rhett Willingham, the girl’s brother who is also a first responder and firefighter, “fought off the shark and pulled her” onto a stranger’s boat.

Willingham wrapped a tourniquet around his sister’s leg to stop the immense blood loss from her “serious injury.” At the same time, “he kept her awake and ultimately saved her life,” according to an update on Addison’s condition. posted online by her father Shane Bethea

When the boat returned to shore, she was airlifted about 60 miles to Tallahassee Memorial Health Care for emergency surgery, according to the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office.

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The nerve on the back of the thigh was badly damaged, her father wrote in a statement on social media.

“The doctors are unsure about the condition of the leg at the moment and want to look at it day by day to see what needs to be done,” he wrote, adding that she was on alert Friday morning.

“She was in a good mood and made jokes about beating the shark,” he said. “The first thing she asked for was a Wendy’s Frosty.”

Bethea is scheduled for another surgery Saturday afternoon “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.”

“Addison has devastating soft tissue damage in her right leg,” a hospital statement said on Facebook. Addison has had a long road to recovery, but she was in a good mood today, surrounded by her family in the Tallahassee Memorial Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Her father has asked for prayers and thanks people for ‘all the support’.

“She’s far from out of the woods, but she’s alive and that’s the most important thing to us,” he wrote. “We appreciate all the support and Addison wanted me to thank everyone too.”

This was the first shark attack ever recorded in Taylor County, according to Tyler Bowling, director of the Florida Museum’s International Shark Attack File, the world’s only scientifically verified database of shark bites.

Fund for medical bills created:

  • An account was created with a local credit union in North Florida to help the family with Bethea’s medical bills. To donate, send a check with Addison Bethea in the memo to the Buckeye Community Federal Credit Union, 1825 S. Jefferson St., Perry, Fla., 32348.

Contact Christopher Cann at [email protected] and follow @ChrisCannFL on Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Keaton Beach shark attack: Florida girl stable after shark bites leg

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