Brother Helps Save His Sister From Shark Attack

Credit: Rhett Willingham, left and his sister Addison Bethea, right. (Photo credit: Missy Gray/Michelle Murphy/GoFundMe)

In late June, seventeen-year-old Addison Bethea was swimming alongside her brother in Keaton Beach, Florida when she was attacked by a shark.  An approximate 9 foot long shark bit her leg and screamed for help.  Her brother, Rhett Willingham, immediately sprung into action to help her sister.

Addison continued to hit the shark, telling CNN “I couldn’t get around to punch it in the nose,” she explained. “So then I just started socking it in the face. And then I poked its eyes. And then I tried to latch it off of my with my fingers and then it bit my hand.”


With the help of her brother, they managed to dislodge the shark from her leg. A nearby boat heard the commotion and began steering towards their direction.  The two were able to climb onboard the boat and immediately apply a tourniquet to her leg in order to stop the bleeding.

The injuries Addison sustained were serious and her leg had to be amputated above the right knee. Without the help from her brother, it surely would have been worse.  Addison is currently doing well after her surgery and is on the road to recovery.

Addison’s injuries to her upper right leg were serious, including the loss of her quadriceps, the four muscles in the front of the thigh that work together to keep the kneecap stable and allow for lower leg extension. The bite also caused massive nerve and vascular damage.


Doctors later successfully amputated the girl’s leg just above the right knee. They used the muscle and tissue from her lower leg to reconstruct her upper leg. She will have the ability to use a prosthesis for her lower leg.

A  GoFundMe campaign was created to help with the medical expenses and has currently raised $88,006 of the $125,000 goal.  Her mother, Michelle Murphy posted on the page, “God was good, he let our baby girl live when the odds were against her. We’ve told her several times since that day that we will take a lost leg over a lost child any day. We also know that God let her live for a reason. She has purpose and so do we.”

“I’m grateful to God that he let our little girl live. I’m grateful to God that she has a brother that loves her so much he risked his own life to save her. Addison is here for a reason. God has big plans for her and we are going to continue to help her find her way in this new life she’s been given. It’s not always going to be easy but she’s going to figure it out and she’s going to be strong and overcome any obstacles and show the world why she’s here.”

Read more about Addison’s story here


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