Taylor Co. shark attack victim identified, family says she’s in good spirits

Addison Bethea, 17, was bitten by a shark on June 30 in Florida and she is continuing to recover with loved ones by her side. (Source: WCTV)
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 4:30 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 1, 2022 at 3:57 PM CDT
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TAYLOR COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) - A 17-year-old girl attacked by a shark at Keaton Beach Thursday has a long road to recovery, but her family said she’s in good spirits and God is on their side.

Addison Bethea was scalloping near Big Grassy Island when the attack happened, according to Taylor County deputies. The family said the shark bit her multiple times, and it would not let loose.

It was Rhett Willingham, her firefighter brother, who jumped in to literally fight off the shark and likely saved her life, according to a press release from Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare.

Rhett put a tourniquet on her leg to minimize blood loss to the massive injury and kept her awake, and once the boat got back to Keaton Beach, she was flown to TMH for emergency surgeries.

TMH’s release says Bethea will go through a second surgery Saturday to evaluate the damage to her leg and determine what treatment options are best to move forward with. The goal is to save her leg.

Tyler Bowling, program manager for the Florida Museum’s International Shark Attack File, said that they are in the primary stages of the investigation but he can confirm that this is the first shark attack recorded in Taylor County.

Bowling said he doesn’t want this attack to scare people away from the ocean.

Below you’ll find WCTV’s initial coverage on the shark attack at Keaton Beach.

TAYLOR COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) - The Taylor County Sheriff’s Office says a girl suffered serious injuries when a shark attacked her at Keaton Beach Thursday afternoon.

One of the girl’s family members reportedly jumped in the water and beat the shark off of her until she was free, the press release says.

According to TCSO, the girl was taken to the shore, where Taylor County firefighters and EMS were posted. Deputies say the girl was then flown to Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare to receive treatment for those injuries.

The family told deputies they were scalloping near Grassy Island in 5-feet deep water when a shark that was about 9 feet long bit the girl.

“Boaters and swimmers are cautioned to be alert, vigilant and practice shark safety,” the press release says. “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.”

Tyler Bowling, the program manager for the Florida Museum’s International Shark Attack File, confirmed Friday that this is the first recorded shark attack in Taylor County.

TCSO says it’s unknown at this point what type of shark it was.

Editor’s Note: In our 11 p.m. newscast Thursday, we reported that the girl had lost her leg, according to the sheriff’s office. That is not the case; she had surgery last night and is expected to survive.

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