FLORIDA SHARK ATTACK: Teen, 17, severely injured after NINE-FOOT predator strikes in 5 feet of water

This is the first shark attack recorded in Taylor County, Florida, according to Tyler Bowling, program manager for the Florida Museum’s International Shark Attack File

FLORIDA SHARK ATTACK: Teen, 17, severely injured after NINE-FOOT predator strikes in 5 feet of water
Representational image (Getty Images/ Stephen Frink)
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TAYLOR COUNTY, FLORIDA: A teenage girl, 17, was left in critical condition after a shark attacked her in shallow waters in Florida. The incident reportedly happened on Thursday, June 30, near Keaton Beach when the victim, Addison Bethea, was scalloping in the water, around five feet deep, near Big Grassy Island.

The Taylor County Sheriff's Office in a statement said, “A family member reportedly jumped in the water and beat the shark until the juvenile was free.” The girl was seriously hurt and was transported to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital via air. In a later press statement from Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, it was revealed that it was Rhett Willingham, Addison Bethea's  firefighter brother, who fought off the shark to save her life. Rhett was also the one who adminstered emergency first aid by putting a tourniquet on her leg to minimize blood loss and keeping her awake till she could be flown to the hospital.

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According to The Daily Beast, the girl is expected to survive her injuries after receiving urgent treatment. In the most recent update, a report from WCTV Florida says though Bethea "has a long road to recovery," her family say that she is "in good spirits and God is on their side". The report added that Bethea is preparing for a second surgery on Saturday, July 2, to evaluate the damage caused by the shark attack and determine the best treatment going forward to save her leg.

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Authorities also released an official statement after the attack that said, “Swimmers and scallopers are cautioned to be alert, vigilant, and practice shark safety. 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.” According to Tyler Bowling, program manager for the Florida Museum’s International Shark Attack File, this is the first shark attack recorded in Taylor County.

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Authorities are still not clear about the species of the shark that attacked the girl but witnesses said that it was at least nine feet long. According to a Newsweek report, “Florida has by far the highest number of unprovoked shark attacks among the U.S. states. Since 1837, the state has reported just under 900 such attacks, according to the Florida Museum's International Shark Attack File. The state with the second-highest number is Hawaii, with 182, then California with 132.”

This recent shark attack thankfully did not claim anyone’s life but earlier this year, in February, a British expat, Simon Nellist, died in Sydney after being savaged by a shark at Buchan Point, near Little Bay. He was reportedly on a practice swim for a charity event. Later, a theory emerged regarding his tragic death. It was said that Nellist was killed by a 4.5-meter shark because of his wetsuit. “He always wore a wetsuit, but the water here is quite warm and no one else really wears one,” another swimmer named Barabara, who often saw Nellist, said.

The expat was in Australia for years and was about to marry his love – Jessie Ho — when he died. A friend of his had said, “Him and Jessie were due to get married last year but that got put off because of Covid. It’s just horrendous. We spent most of yesterday just hoping and praying it wasn’t him. It’s still incredibly raw. Simon was amazing. That’s all there is to say really. He was just the best. He was the nicest, kindest human. It is a huge loss. In the last couple of years we haven’t been able to see him because of the Covid situation.”

“He was massively into wildlife and knew exactly what he was doing. He wasn’t daft. It’s just a freak accident. Simon was doing his diving and he would send us the most amazing videos of the wildlife out there. He was so respectful of the wildlife. He finished in the RAF about six years ago and he went traveling and then just fell in love with it out there. Then he fell in love with Jessie. I know he did some pretty big tours with the RAF,” the friend added.

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