A teenager is facing the loss of one of her legs after a shark bit her while swimming off the coast of Florida, according to authorities.
Facebook posts shared by the Taylor county sheriff’s office and the girl’s father, Shane Bethea, recounted the nearly fatal attack Thursday.
Bethea’s daughter, Addison, was swimming to collect scallops in waters 5ft deep off Keaton Beach, about 75 miles south-east of Tallahassee, the state’s capital. A 9ft-long shark suddenly began biting her, including on her right thigh, said the posts from Shane Bethea and the sheriff’s office.
“She tried poking it in the eyes and punching it but it would not turn loose,” Shane Bethea wrote of his daughter, whose exact age wasn’t immediately released.
Addison’s brother – Rhett Willingham, a firefighter – was with her, and he got into the water with her to “literally fight off the shark”, Shane Bethea added in his statement, which was shared by the sheriff’s office.
Using his training as an emergency responder, Willingham pulled his sister into a nearby boat and put a tourniquet on her wounded leg to minimize the loss of blood from her large wound, the girl’s father said.
Willingham kept his sister conscious, “ultimately saving her life”, as they returned to Keaton Beach on the boat, according to Shane Bethea. A helicopter crew flew her to a hospital in Tallahassee to undergo emergency surgery.
Bethea said Addison was sedated until Friday morning, when she woke up and – because she was intubated – communicated with her family by typing notes on her mobile phone. She joked about having beat up the shark who attacked her, her dad said.
Once doctors removed the breathing tubes from her, she asked for a frosted dairy dessert from a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant.
“She’s been through more than I could ever imagine, but she is being a trooper,” Shane Bethea wrote of Addison. “Please pray for her and the difficulty of her days ahead.
“She isn’t out of the woods by any stretch, but she is alive and that’s what’s most important to us.”
Shark attacks are relatively rare, with 73 such cases worldwide being recorded as unprovoked last year, according to an ABC News report. However, a disproportionate number of those attacks occurred in Florida.
The state, whose waters are popular with tourists and residents, accounted for 28 such cases – 60% of the total in the US and 28% worldwide, ABC News reported.
Addison’s attack came about nine days after a shark reportedly bit a retired information technology specialist named Steve Bruemmer while he swam in the California coastal community of Pacific Grove.
The Taylor county sheriff’s office admonished people to never swim alone, around fishers or large schools of fish, or near sandbars, “where sharks like to congregate”.