KEY POINTS

  • The 17-year-old girl poked the shark's eye to loosen its grip
  • The girl's brother, a firefighter, punched the shark
  • There were 28 shark attack cases in Florida last year

Florida -- A teenage girl was hospitalized with serious injuries after a shark attacked her in shallow waters off Florida’s Keaton Beach on Thursday, authorities said.

The 17-year-old girl was scalloping in the water, around five feet deep, near Grassy Island, when a 9-foot shark locked its jaws around her thigh, according to Taylor County Sheriff’s Office news release, the Associated Press News reported.

The teenager tried to loosen herself from the shark's grip by poking it in the eye, before her brother, a firefighter, punched it and managed to fight off the shark. Rhett Willingham, the girl’s brother, was quick to respond and pulled his sister onto a stranger's boat. To limit blood loss, he applied a tourniquet onto his sister's leg.

After she was brought to shore, the girl was taken to a hospital in Tallahassee, the state capital, roughly 60 miles from the coast. Doctors informed the family that the girl's limb had been severely damaged.

According to Shane Bethea, the girl's father, she was tranquilized until Friday morning, when she regained consciousness. He said she joked about having the shark beaten up when she regains consciousness. She reportedly also requested a frosted dairy dessert after doctors removed her breathing tubes, The Guardian reported. “She’s been through more than I could ever imagine, but she is being a trooper,” Bethea said in a Facebook post. “Please pray for her and the difficulty of her days ahead.” He added, “She isn’t out of the woods by any stretch, but she is alive and that’s what’s most important to us.”

The girl recounted the attack on ABC News, and said that she intended to punch the shark's nose, recalling what she saw on Animal Planet.

While shark attacks are rare, out of 73 shark attack cases recorded in the world last year, 28 were in Florida, representing 60% of shark attack cases in the U.S. and 38% worldwide.

Deputies urged the public to stay safe, and avoid swimming alone and erratic movements in the water.

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Representative image Credit: Pixabay / MankaSeptember
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