Brevard County family helps teen recover from Panhandle shark attack

Addison Bethea had leg partially amputated

A teen bitten by a shark off the coast of the Florida Panhandle last week is recovering in the hospital and surrounded by her family. The attack happened near Keaton Beach and after several surgeries and days in the hospital, Addison Bethea, 17, had her leg partially amputated Wednesday night.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A teen bitten by a shark off the coast of the Florida Panhandle last week is recovering in the hospital and surrounded by her family.

The attack happened near Keaton Beach and after several surgeries and days in the hospital, Addison Bethea, 17, had her leg partially amputated Wednesday night.

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Her mother, Michelle Murphy, and brother, Rhett Willingham, said the teen was scalloping last Thursday when a shark attacked.

“She came up and she was screaming and I could see the shark’s tail on her and there was blood coming out from under her. So I swam over there and tried to separate them as best as I could,” Willingham said.

Addison Bethea was bitten by a shark while scalloping off Keaton Beach. (Michelle Murphy)

Willingham, a firefighter in Taylor County, said he fought the shark off, swam Addison to a nearby boat and tied on a tourniquet. On the way back to land, he said he called dispatch explaining the situation and once they docked, a helicopter was waiting to take them from Keaton Beach to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.

Murphy, a Satellite Beach resident, got the call and drove up to be with her daughter.

“She immediately went into surgery. It was a trauma case. It was really bad,” she said.

Doctors estimated it was a 9-foot shark that latched onto Addison’s leg.

“They managed to save her lower leg which is the reason now she will be able to wear a prosthetic,” Murphy said.

Addison will get a prosthetic and her family said, hopefully, she’ll be able to leave the hospital soon.

“She’s got a great attitude. She’s accepted it. She’s got deep faith and this was God’s plan for her for whatever reason, and she’s going to do something positive out of this,” Murphy said.

A GoFundMe with hundreds of donations already was set up to fund all the expenses.

Her family said she’s received an outpouring of love from across the state, even a special message from pro surfer and shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton.

Murphy said the high school cheerleader and tennis player is eager to recover and even hopes to get back in the water soon.

“She has a good outlook about this and she wants to get back to her life and I think she will. She’s already talked about going back out scalloping with Rhett,” Murphy said.


About the Author:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.