Teen loses leg after shark attack in Florida

The Teen Who Survived a shark attack last week near Tallahassee, Florida, is now facing an upcoming surgery to amputate one of her legs.

Addison Bethea, a 17-year-old from the nearby town of Perry, was shelling shallow waters off Keaton Beach on Thursday when a shark suddenly approached and bit her. Neither authorities nor witnesses have been able to confirm the species of shark that attacked Bethea, although people who saw it happen later estimated the animal to be about 10 feet (3 meters) long.

Bethea will undergo a scheduled amputation Tuesday after the shark clung to the upper part of her right leg. CBS Miami reported. Bethea gave details of the incident during a recent interview at the hospital where she is currently being treated, explaining how her older brother, firefighter Rhett Willingham, managed to fend off the shark and provide emergency medical care after he got her to safety.

“We were scalloping for about two hours and we went to the last spot, obviously for just 15 minutes, and we got to the boat and I felt like a tugboat,” she said. Bethea then recalled trying to punch the shark in the nose, but noted that she was unable to do so because of his “weird position.”

“Then it tried to drag me underwater because we were in almost six feet of water,” she added.

Willingham told CBS Miami that he was about six feet from Bethea when he heard his sister scream. “I got up to turn around and see what was going on because it sounded like something was scaring her,” he said. “And she was under the water and then she came back and there was blood all around her and I saw the shark.”

Addison Bethea, left, faces a long fight after being bitten by a shark off Keaton Beach in Florida.  Her brother, Rhett Willingham, helped save her.  / Credit: CBS Miami

Addison Bethea, left, faces a long fight after being bitten by a shark off Keaton Beach in Florida. Her brother, Rhett Willingham, helped save her. / Credit: CBS Miami

He retrieved Bethea from the shark’s hold before putting her in a boat and applying a temporary tourniquet to her injured leg to reduce the blood loss. The siblings’ mother, Michele Murphy, praised Willingham, calling her daughter’s survival “a miracle.”

“My daughter shouldn’t be alive at this point by medical standards and I know that,” Murphy said. “It’s a miracle she survived this and I know if Rhett hadn’t been the one with her when it happened, we’d be in a very different scenario now.”

Though Bethea faces a long recovery, the teen is optimistic about returning to the water.

“Don’t be afraid of the ocean,” she said. “I got so many people on my Instagram saying, ‘I’m so scared of the ocean right now.’ But I’m still going into the ocean as I heal and get well. I’m still going to do what I love, don’t let fear take over your life.”

Thursday’s attack is one of the latest in an alarming pattern of similar incidents. Shark Attacks increased worldwide in 2021, after several consecutive years of declining numbers, with more registered in the US than any other country. About 40% of the 73 unprovoked shark bites reported worldwide resulted from incidents in Florida. In contrast, the National Weather Service estimates About 270 people in the US are struck by lightning every year.

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