Teenage Addison Bethea was festooning with her family off Keaton Beach in Taylor County when a nine-foot shark wrapped its jaw around her thigh on Thursday afternoon.
Bethea, 17, tried to ‘poke him in the eye and punch him’ but the shark with its teeth deep in his leg wouldn’t let go.
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 her sister’s leg to stop the immense blood loss from her “massive wound”. Simultaneously, he “kept her awake, ultimately saving her life,” according to an update on Addison’s condition written and posted online by her father Shane Bethea.
After the boat returned to shore, it was airlifted about 60 miles to Tallahassee Memorial Health Care for emergency surgeries, according to the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office.
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The nerve in the back of the thigh was badly damaged, his father wrote in a statement on social media.
“Doctors are unsure at this stage of the condition of the leg and want to take her day by day to see what needs to be done,” he wrote, adding that she was 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 to undergo another surgery on Saturday afternoon “to further investigate the extent of the damage to her leg and determine what treatment options are available in an effort to save her leg.”
“Addison has devastating soft tissue damage to his right leg,” according to a hospital statement posted on Facebook. “Addison has a long road to recovery, but she was in good spirits today surrounded by her family in the Tallahassee Memorial Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
Her father asked for prayers and thanked people for “all the support”.
“She’s not off the hook, but she’s alive and that’s what matters most to us,” he wrote. “We appreciate all the support and Addison wanted me to say thank you to everyone as well.”
It was the first shark attack on record in Taylor County, according to Tyler Bowling, program manager of the Florida Museum’s International Shark Attack File, the only scientifically verified database of shark bites that covers the planet.
Fund for medical expenses created:
An account was set up at a local North Florida credit union to help the family pay Bethea’s medical bills. To donate, send a check with Addison Bethea in the memo to 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