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Brave brother dives into water to free sister from jaws of 9-foot-long shark



On June 30th, 17-year-old Addison Bethea was enjoying a peaceful day scalloping on the shores of Keaton Beach in Florida, when her life changed forever.

Unbeknownst to her, a bull shark was lurking in the water, waiting to strike.

As Addison was going about her day, she suddenly felt a sharp pain in her leg and realized that she was being attacked by a shark.

Despite being in a state of panic, Addison remembered what she had learned about shark attacks from watching an episode of Animal Planet.

She knew that she had to punch the shark’s nose in order to escape its grip. However, she was in an awkward position and unable to reach the shark’s nose.

Despite the dire situation, Addison refused to give up. She bravely tried to pry the shark’s jaws off of her leg with her bare hands. It was then that her older brother, Rhett Willingham, jumped into the water to save her. Rhett is a 22-year-old Taylor County emergency medical technician and firefighter, so he was well trained in emergency situations.

Rhett saw that Addison was badly injured and the water was turning red with her blood. He swam over to her and pushed the shark away, but it kept coming back. He kicked and beat the shark relentlessly, until finally, it let go of Addison. Rhett then grabbed his sister and placed her on a stranger’s nearby boat.

With Addison badly injured, Rhett quickly improvised a 4-foot tourniquet using the boat’s rope and wrapped it around her right upper leg to control the bleeding. Addison was then airlifted to the nearest hospital, where she was listed in critical condition and underwent emergency surgery.

The shark had attacked Addison’s right leg, completely destroying her front quad muscle. According to her father, Shane Bethea, the wound was devastating and the vascular surgeon had to take a vein from her left leg and turn it into an artery for her right leg to get blood flow.

Despite the traumatic experience, Addison’s family was grateful that she had survived. Only four days prior to Addison’s attack, residents had spotted sharks lurking in the same area, and there had been two other shark attacks in Florida and California just a few days apart.

Following Addison’s attack, authorities issued a warning to all swimmers and scallopers in the area to be vigilant and stay on high alert. If you would like to help the Bethea family with their medical bills, you can mail a check with “Addison Bethea” in the memo to the Buckeye Community Federal Credit Union at 1825 S. Jefferson St., Perry, Florida, 32348.

Addison’s father, Shane Bethea, has been updating her progress on his Facebook account, and they are grateful for all the love and support they have received during this difficult time. The incident serves as a reminder of the importance of being prepared for emergencies and the bravery of individuals who are willing to risk their lives to save others.

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