A community in Hernando County came together Thursday to support a Weeki Wachee mermaid performer who was badly hurt in a boating accident two weeks ago.
Samantha Maywell, 24, was on a boat with friends off of Hernando Beach Aug. 22 when she fell off and under the propeller, nearly severing her leg.
"Very scary. Very traumatic. A mother never wants to get a call that her daughter's been hurt," said Deanna Maywell, Samantha's mother, during a fundraiser for her daughter at Texas Roadhouse Grill in Brooksville.
Dozens of community members donated money to help Samantha's family with her medical bills; she's already had two surgeries and is scheduled to have a third next week.
Samantha, who went home for the first time Wednesday, wasn't able to make it to the fundraiser but her mother said she's thankful so many people care about her.
"Couldn't ask for a better community, better friends, better family," Deanna Maywell said.
Several of Samantha's fellow Weeki Wachee mermaid performers showed up in their fish tails and took pictures with families.
"When one of us is gone and not at Weeki Wachee, it's like we're missing a piece of us and a piece of that place and it's not the same until that person returns," said Rebecca Webster. "If anyone deserves the help, Sam deserves the help."
Among those who also made it to the event were a few new friends who were on another boat the day of the accident and rushed to her aid.
"I was on the back of the boat across from her and I watched her slip off the boat into the prop and it was really scary," said Kim Evans.
Two others on Evans' boat pulled Samantha from the water and wrapped her leg; paramedics said that act might have saved her life.
"That was a rough night for all of us and we woke up the next day not knowing if she had lived or died," said Bill Rutherford, who was stunned to find out not only had she survived, doctors also saved her leg. "That was just completely shocking to us because I'd seen it up close."
Deanna Maywell said her daughter can't put weight on her leg for three months. After that, she wants to get back in the water as soon as she can.
"She knows she's going to be back in that tail," she said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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