Teen Suffers Serious Injuries in Shark Attack at Florida Beach: 'It's a Tragedy,' Says Sheriff

Shark fin above water
Shark fin above water

Getty Images

A teenage girl was seriously injured after being attacked by a shark at a Florida beach shortly before Independence Day weekend.

"As many of you know, our daughter Addison was attacked by a large shark yesterday, June 30th, while scalloping out of Keaton beach," read a family statement, which was shared on social media by the Taylor County Sheriff's Office on Friday.

"The shark bit her once and then attacked her again on her right thigh," wrote dad Shane Bethea.
"She tried poking it in the eyes and punching it but it would not turn loose."

Fortunately, "by the grace of God" Addison was with her brother, a first responder and firefighter.

Jumping into action, her brother "acted quickly to literally fight off the shark and pull her away and into a nearby boat of an unknown person," Bethea wrote. "Rhett put a tourniquet on her leg to minimize blood loss to the massive injury and kept her awake, ultimately saving her life."

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Police said in a news release that the teen sustained "serious injuries" from the attack and was airlifted to a Tallahassee hospital for treatment.

"It's a tragedy, what's happened," Taylor County Sheriff Wayne Padgett said in a video posted by CBS affiliate WCTV.

When reached for comment by PEOPLE on Friday, a Taylor County Sheriff's Office spokesperson said the teen "is currently in serious but stable condition."

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At the hospital, doctors were able 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," according to Addison's father.

"The nerve on the back of the thigh was damaged severely. There is an unreal amount of damage to her thigh area," Bethea wrote in the public statement. "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."

Her family said that when she woke up on Friday morning, Addison "was in good spirits and cracking jokes about beating up the shark."

"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," added Bethea. "She isn't out of the woods by any stretch, but she is alive and that's what's most important to us."

Keaton Beach
Keaton Beach

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The teen was in about five feet of water when she was bit by the shark at Keaton Beach, the TSCO said in their news release.

Robert Sudusky, who lives near Grassy Island, told WCTV that he witnessed some of the aftermath from the horrific attack.

"Everybody at the beach here ran over to my house — I mean everybody," he told the outlet. "Everybody was shocked."

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It is unclear what kind of shark bit the girl, authorities said. The shark was described as being approximately nine feet in length.

Following Thursday's incident, authorities are urged boaters, swimmers and scallopers to be "alert" and "vigilant" on the water and recommended they "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 sheriff's department said in its news release.

Additionally, Padgett asked individuals not to dump scallop waste or fish into the water, which he said can lead a shark to a "feeding frenzy," per WCTV.

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In 2021 the United States led all countries with 47 confirmed cases of unprovoked shark bites, or 64% of the global total, according to the University of Florida. The number of U.S. shark bites is up 42% from 2020, which saw 33 incidents occur.

Florida leads the U.S. in shark bites, with 28 of the 47 confirmed cases (60%) from 2021, the university reported. The state's unprovoked shark bites make up 38% of the cases worldwide.