Shark attacks Florida teenager Addison Bethea’s leg over 4th of July weekend; she might lose her leg

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Addison Bethea was picking up scallops on Florida’s Gulf Coast ahead of the July 4 weekend when she felt something cling to her leg. The 17-year-old was swimming in water that was just five feet deep on Thursday, but she immediately knew anything wrapped around her thigh had put her in danger.

“I was like, this is not right,” Bethea told ABC “hello america” program. “And then I look, and it’s a big old shark.”

Bethea was bitten twice by a large shark near Keaton Beach, Florida, and only pulled away after her brother grabbed her and kicked the animal, the father said of the teenager in a Facebook post. The Taylor County Sheriff’s Office confirmed in a statement that a “juvenile was bitten by an undetermined type of shark, described as being about nine feet long”.

She has been in serious but stable condition since Saturday morning. Although the 17-year-old from Perry, Florida survived the attack, she suffered “devastating soft tissue damage to her right leg”, according to a statement from Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, where she is being treated. After undergoing emergency surgery to restore blood flow to her leg, the hospital said in a statement that Bethea was scheduled to undergo another procedure on 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 his leg.

“Right now we’re dealing with every issue on a day-to-day basis, but the long-term outlook for his leg isn’t good,” said father Shane Bethea. wrote Saturday in a Facebook post.

Hospital officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Saturday.

Shark attacks increased in 2021 after three consecutive years of decline, according to Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack Record. The increase from 2020 is largely attributed to coronavirus-related restrictions, according to museum data.

Florida is home to the highest number of unprovoked shark attack cases, not just in the United States, but in the world. Researchers say 28 of 73 unprovoked attacks last year originated from the Sunshine State, which accounts for 60% of cases in the United States and 38% of incidents worldwide.

The Florida attack came the same day a man swimming on Jones Beach on Long Island was allegedly bitten by a shark, authorities say. Doctors who treated the 57-year-old man’s laceration to his right foot identified it as a possible shark bite, prompting the Nassau County Police Department to increase beach patrols over the weekend of holidays, WNBC reported.

When Bethea first realized a shark was biting her leg, she tried to “poke him in the eye and punch him,” Shane Bethea wrote. Michelle Murphy, the teenager’s mother, went so far as to say WOFL in Orlando that his daughter was “fighting the shark”.

“I remember watching Animal Planet to love… the punch [it] in the nose or something,” Addison Bethea told “Good Morning America” ​​from her hospital bed. “And I couldn’t get around his nose as he bit me.”

As the shark attack unfolded, her brother, Rhett Willingham, a firefighter and emergency medical technician, rushed into the water to help her. Willingham was stunned to see the blood surrounding his sister – and the shark that wouldn’t let go.

“So I swam over there, grabbed her, and then pushed them all away, kind of trying to pull them apart,” Willingham told ABC. “And he kept coming. So I grabbed her, swam backwards and kicked her, then screamed for help.

Bethea’s father said Willingham put the teenager’s leg in a tourniquet to help stop the bleeding ‘and kept her awake, ultimately saving her life’. The family noted that a Good Samaritan in a boat carried the sister and brother back to the beach, where she was quickly airlifted to Tallahassee, about 80 miles away.

“The nerve in the back of the thigh was badly damaged,” his father said. wrote on Facebook. “There is an unreal amount of damage in his thigh area.”

Taylor County Sheriff Wayne Padgett described the incident to WCTV as “a tragedy”. Victor Blanco, an agent with the University of Florida’s Taylor County Extension Service, noted that it was possible, based on reports from witnesses and authorities, that a bull shark attacked Bethea.

“They prefer shallow coastal waters, which means they can often come into contact with humans,” Blanco said. wrote. “Bull sharks are often considered the most dangerous sharks to humans due to their aggressive tendencies and ability to swim up rivers.”

While Blanco stressed that shark attacks are extremely rare, the sheriff’s office posted safety reminders to residents on social media in the days following the incident.

“Swimmers and scallops are warned to be alert, vigilant and to practice shark safety,” the sheriff’s office wrote. “Some rules to follow are: never swim alone, don’t enter the water near anglers, avoid areas such as sandbars (where sharks like to congregate), don’t swim near large schools of fish and avoid erratic movements in the water.”

The hospital stressed that although Bethea “has a long road to recovery”, she was in good spirits and appreciated all the support she had received since the attack. Shane Bethea praised his daughter’s tenacity through it all, saying she “made jokes about beating the shark” and asked for a Wendy’s Frosty when she was extubated. But he recognized the seriousness of a situation that could leave his daughter without a leg.

“We just ask that you continue to keep her in your prayers. She is a soldier but she has an extremely long road ahead of her mentally and physically,” he wrote on Saturday. “Keep us in your prayers as well because she is our baby girl.”

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