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The Teen Who Livedlast week near Tallahassee, Fla., now faces upcoming surgery to amputate one of his legs.
Addison Bethea, a 17-year-old from nearby Perry, was fishing in the shallow waters off Keaton Beach on Thursday when a shark suddenly approached and bit her. Neither authorities nor witnesses were able to confirm the species of shark that attacked Bethea, although people who saw it happen later estimated the animal to be around 9ft long.
Bethea is set to undergo a scheduled amputation on Tuesday after the shark latched onto the upper part of her right leg,reported. Recounting the details of the incident during a recent interview at the hospital where she is currently being treated, Bethea explained how her older brother, firefighter Rhett Willingham, managed to fend off the shark and provide medical aid from emergency after having brought it to safety.
“We scalloped for about two hours and went to the last spot, obviously for just 15 minutes, and we were going towards the boat and I felt like a tug,” she said. Bethea then recalled attempting to punch the shark in its nose, but noted that she was unable to do so due to its “strange position”.
“Then he tried to drag me underwater because we were in about six feet of water,” she added.
Willingham told CBS Miami he was about eight feet from Bethea when he heard his sister scream. “I got up to turn around and see what was going on because it looked like something was scaring him,” he said. “And she was underwater and then she came back up and there was blood all around her and I saw the shark.”
He retrieved Bethea from the shark’s grasp before moving her into a boat and applying a preliminary tourniquet to her injured leg to decrease blood loss. The siblings’ mother, Michele Murphy, praised Willingham and called her daughter’s survival a “miracle”.
“My daughter, by medical standards, shouldn’t be alive right now and I know that,” Murphy said. “It’s a miracle that she survived that and I know if Rhett hadn’t been the one with her when it happened, we could be in a very different scenario right now.”
Although Bethea is facing a long recovery, the teenager is optimistic about his eventual return to the water.
“Don’t be afraid of the ocean,” she said. “I got so many comments on my Instagram saying, ‘I’m so scared of the ocean now. But I’ll still go to the ocean when I heal and feel better. I will always do what I love, don’t let fear take over your life.”
Thursday’s attack is one of the latest in an alarming series of similar incidents. Shark attacksin 2021, after several consecutive years of declining numbers, with more registrations in the United States than in any other country. About 40% of the 73 unprovoked shark bites reported worldwide came from incidents in Florida. In contrast, the National Weather Service estimates that approximately 270 people in the United States are struck by lightning each year.
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