Life
Brave brother dives into water to free sister from jaws of 9-foot-long shark
Her brother pried the animal's jaws off of her leg.
Michael Dabu
07.19.22

Having a quick-thinking mind benefits one when facing a life-threatening situation. Thankfully, this young man has it; that’s why he was able to save her sister from the jaws of a near-death experience.

June 30th, a 17-year-old teen named Addison Bethea was scalloping on the Keaton Beach shore in Florida when an unexpected guest joined her.

“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,” the teen told Good Morning America.

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Thankfully, Addison’s knowledge about shark attacks flashed into her memory, thanks to an episode of Animal Planet. She knew she needed to punch the shark’s nose in case of an attack, however, she was latched in a position where she couldn’t reach it.

Despite her hopeless situation, the brave teenager still put up a fight against the shark. She tried pulling off her legs just by using her bare hands.

Right when the water turned red, Addison’s older brother, Rhett Willingham quickly jumped into the water to save her.

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

“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 backward and kicked him, and then yelled for help,” he added while trying to explain what he did during that very crucial moment.

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Gladly, Rhett, 22, is trained during emergency situations because he is a Taylor County emergency medical technician and firefighter. To save his sister, he relentlessly beat and kicked the shark, and when it finally let go of Addison, he immediately grabbed her and placed her on a stranger’s boat who was nearby at that moment.

The quick-thinking brother then made a 4-foot tourniquet using the boat’s rope and wrapped it around his sister’s right upper leg to control the bleeding.

Addison was then airlifted to the nearest hospital where she was listed in “critical condition.”

Because of the severity of her injuries, the 17-year-old shark attack victim needed to undergo emergency surgery.

“The shark attacked her right leg, front quad muscle was completely annihilated,” Addison’s dad, Shane Bethea said. “It was devastating, a nasty, nasty wound. The vascular surgeon took the vein from the left leg and turned it into an artery for the right leg to get blood flow.”

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Despite what had happened, they were still thankful she survived from that moment of terror when she was under attack by a shark which they believed was a “bull shark” that was at least 9 feet long!

The shark attack on Addison occurred just four days after residents spotted sharks lurking nearby the same area. It also came after another attack that happened in the Florida Keys and another one in California which occurred just a few days apart.

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Following Addison’s case, authorities warned both swimmers and scallopers in the area to stay on high alert and be vigilant.

You may check Shane Bethea’s Facebook account if you want to know how Addison’s doing. And for those who want to help them with medical bills, feel free to mail a check with “Addison Bethea” in the memo and send it to the Buckeye Community Federal Credit Union, 1825 S. Jefferson St., Perry, Florida, 32348.

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By Michael Dabu
hi@sbly.com
Michael Dabu is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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