The 17-year-old girl who was attacked by a shark at a Florida beach is alive today thanks to her fighting instincts and her brother’s quick actions.
When a shark bit Addison Bethea, she was scalloping in water approximately 5 feet deep off Grassy Island near Keaton Beach.
According to Addison, you’re supposed to hit sharks in the nose if they attack you, but she couldn’t get to the beast’s nose since it bit her. She persisted, attempting to rip it off her limb with her bare hands.
Addison’s brother, Rhett Willingham, jumped into the water to assist her when he saw the blood.
“She came back up and I saw, like, the blood and everything, and I saw the shark,” he said.
“So then I swam over there, grabbed her, and then pushed them all, kind of trying to separate them. And he just kept coming. So I grabbed her, swam backwards and kicked him and then yelled for help.”
Rhett, 22, a Taylor County EMT and firefighter, battered and kicked the shark nonstop in an effort to get his sister free. He grabbed her and put her on his boat once she was free.
Rhett transferred Addison to a nearby boater who saw them in distress, who offered to assist.
To control the bleeding, he fashioned a 4-foot tourniquet out of a boat rope and wrapped it around her right upper leg. Before using the boat to return to shore, Rhett requested an ambulance.
Addison was initially listed in critical condition at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital after suffering severe injuries that required airlift.
She was treated and stabilized after undergoing emergency surgery. Unfortunately, her right leg was seriously injured.
“The shark attacked her right leg, front quad muscle was completely annihilated,” Addison’s dad, Shane, said.
“It was devastating, a nasty, nasty wound. The vascular surgeon took the vein from the left leg and turned it into an artery for the right leg to get blood flow.”
Her leg is being sought to be avoided being detached from her hip. Surgeons will also try to preserve enough tissue from her lower leg for prosthetic limbs to be attached.
Shane exclaimed, “The most important thing right now is that she’s alive!”
Addison is remaining optimistic, despite the horrors she has experienced. In the ICU, her friends came to see her.
“She woke up and was communicating to us through typing on her phone. She was in good spirits and cracking jokes about beating up the shark,” Shane wrote in a Facebook post.
Addison requested a Wendy’s Frosty as his first request.
The youngster’s second surgery will be carried out soon to investigate the degree of the injury and to rule out any treatment options for her leg.
It’s unclear what sort of shark attacked Addison, but it was said to be approximately 9 feet long, according to the sheriff’s office.
All the swimmers and scallopers in the area received safety reminders from them.
“Swimmers and scallopers are cautioned to be alert, vigilant, and practice shark safety,” the sheriff’s office said.
“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.”
You may write a check to the Buckeye Community Federal Credit Union, 1825 S. Broadway, with the memo “Addison Bethea” to help with Addison’s medical expenses. Perry, Florida, 32348. Jefferson Street.
Click on NBC News to learn more about this story.