Florida teen girl attacked by 9-foot shark

The teen’s brother fought off the shark and pulled his sister into a nearby boat, according to the family.

TAYLOR COUNTY, Fla. — A 17-year-old girl was hospitalized with serious injuries after getting attacked by a 9-foot shark at a Florida beach, according to the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office.

It happened Thursday on Keaton Beach, about an hour and a half southeast of Tallahassee.

Deputies say Addison Bethea was scalloping near Grassy Island in water about 5 feet deep when she was bitten. In a statement, the girl’s family later said that she was bitten twice, with the shark mainly attacking her right thigh.

“She tried poking it in the eyes and punching it but it would not turn loose,” they wrote.

That’s when a family member “reportedly jumped in the water and beat the shark until the juvenile was free,” the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook.

This family member was Addison’s brother Rhett, who is a first responder/firefighter, according to the family. He reportedly fought off the shark and pulled his sister into a nearby boat.

“Rhett put a tourniquet on her leg to minimize blood loss to the massive injury and kept her awake, ultimately saving her life,” the statement read.

The type of shark that attacked was unclear but was described as approximately 9 feet long.

The girl was airlifted to a Tallahassee hospital with serious injuries. According to the family, she underwent emergency treatment on her leg but “there is an unreal amount of damage to her thigh area.”

The family says doctors are monitoring Addison’s leg day by day to see what treatment is needed. She did, however, wake up “in good spirits and cracking jokes about beating up the shark.” 

In an update Friday evening, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare shared that Addison has “devastating damage to her right leg.”

“She will undergo a second surgery Saturday, July 2, to further investigate the extent of the damage to her leg and determine what treatment options are available with the goal of saving her leg,” the hospital system said in a Facebook post.

“She’s been through more than I could ever imagine but she is being a trooper. 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,” the family wrote.

In 2021, Florida had the most unprovoked shark bites in the U.S. with a total of 28, according to the Florida Museum’s International Shark Attack File. Hawaii had the second-highest total with only six reported unprovoked bites.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says that while the chances of getting bitten by a shark are extremely low, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. This includes swimming in groups, removing any shiny jewelry and avoiding the water if you’re bleeding from an open wound.

Florida’s shark population includes species ranging from only a few feet to up to 40 feet in length, with none of them seeing humans as a food source, according to the FWC. Wildlife experts believe that most shark attacks are cases of mistaken identity, which is why most of them are “bite-and-release.”