Florida Teen and Her Brother Recount Terrifying Shark Attack: ‘He Just Kept Coming’

by Lauren Boisvert
florida-teen-and-her-brother-recount-terrifying-shark-attack-experience-he-just-kept-coming

On Thursday, June 30, 17-year-old named Addison Bethea was scalloping near Grassy Island at Keaton Beach in Taylor County, FL when she was bitten on the leg by a shark. She spoke to Good Morning America from her hospital room in Tallahassee, FL today, where she was in good spirits, even if her leg was still in bad shape.

“And the next thing I know something latches onto my leg and I was like that’s not right. And then I look and it’s a big old shark,” she shared, per ABC News. “Then I remember from watching the Animal Planet to like…punch [it] in the nose or something like that. And I couldn’t get around to his nose the way he bit me.”

Punching a shark in the nose actually has some basis in science, and it does work when the angles are right; sharks have highly sensitive electroreceptors in their noses, called Ampullae of Lorenzini. They work in a way that let sharks detect electric fields. Because these organs are so sensitive–are essentially bundles of nerves beneath the cartilage–a good punch in the nose can dull a shark’s senses and slow down an attack. This can give you enough time to get away.

So, Animal Planet taught Addison right, but unfortunately she wasn’t in a situation where she could exercise her knowledge. Currently, it’s also unknown what type of shark bit her. Luckily, Addison’s brother, Rhett Willingham, is a firefighter and EMT.

“She came back up and I saw, like, the blood and everything, and I saw the shark,” said Rhett. “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.”

Teenager Survives Shark Attack in Florida Thanks to EMT Brother

Rhett made a tourniquet for Addison’s leg to control the bleeding, but her leg was intensely damaged. A nearby boater took them back to the beach. Addison was airlifted 80 miles to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, where medical professionals listed her in critical condition.

They were able to stabilize her after one surgery; but, she’s due for another surgery to explore the extent of damage to her right leg and decide her recovery options. “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,” the hospital said in a statement.

The sheriff’s department put out a statement regarding shark safety in the wake of the incident. They wrote in part, “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.”

Outsider.com