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

THE LATEST: 'She is a trooper': Doctors will amputate Taylor Co. girl's leg following shark attack

Addison Bethea, a teenage girl, was scalloping with her family off Keaton Beach in Taylor County when a nine-foot shark wrapped its jaw around her thigh Thursday afternoon.

Bethea, 17, tried "poking it in the eyes and punching it," but the shark with its teeth dug deep in her leg did not let up.

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 on his sister's leg to stop the immense blood loss from her "massive injury." Simultaneously, he "kept her awake, ultimately saving her life," according to a update on Addison's condition written and posted online by her father Shane Bethea.

Once the boat returned to shore, she 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 on the back of the thigh was severely damaged, her father wrote in a statement on social media.

"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 wrote, adding that she was alert by Friday morning.

"She was in good spirits and cracking jokes about beating up 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 damage to the soft tissue in her right leg," according to a hospital statement posted to Facebook. "Addison has a long journey to recovery, but she was in good spirits today, surrounded by her family in Tallahassee Memorial’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Her father has asked for prayers and thanked people for "all of the support."

"She isn’t out of the woods by any stretch, but she is alive and that’s what’s most important to us," he wrote. "We appreciate all of the support and Addison wanted me to tell everyone Thank You as well."

This was the first shark attack ever recorded in Taylor County, according to Tyler Bowling, program manager of Florida Museum’s International Shark Attack File, the only scientifically verified shark bite database that covers the planet.

Fund for medical bills created:

  • An account has been created at a local North Florida credit union to assist the family with Bethea's medical bills. To donate, mail 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 ccann@tallahassee.com 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