The Sunday shark attack off North Carolina that cost a teenager her leg ended when the girl’s father “punched the shark in the face,” according to Janet Winter, identified as the girl’s grandmother.
Paige Winter, 17, of Havelock was attacked by a bull shark while standing in waist-deep water off Atlantic Beach, as her father stood nearby, according to a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $23,000. The beach is located at the southern tip of the Outer Banks, north of Jacksonville.
The father, Charlie Winter, is a firefighter and paramedic with the City of Havelock Fire and Rescue and served in the Marines, according to the campaign.
Paige Winter lost part of one leg above the knee and some fingers, Janet Winter posted on her Facebook page.
“Thank God our son was with her,” the woman wrote on Facebook. “He said he punched the shark in the face five times before it let go.”
Charlie Winter said a Jun 14 news conference that the first indication he had of trouble that day was seeing a five-foot-long “trail of pink” moving through the water.
“She was under water,” Charlie Winter said of his daughter. “I grabbed her with my left arm and I pulled her up over the water. And when I pulled her up, a shark came up with her and it was a big shark. I immediately started to hit it... It could have been 10 (times), it could have been three. I don’t know, I wasn’t keeping track. But I know I was hitting it, and I hit it with everything I could and it let go.”
Winter’s instinct to punch the shark was actually a brilliant move, experts say.
“If... a shark bites you, what we recommend is you should hit the shark in the eye, in the nose, or stick your hand in the gills,” according to a video from Chris Lowe, Director of California State University Long Beach Shark Lab. “Those are all sensitive tissues and quite often it causes the shark to release.”
Family members say Paige Winter will likely need multiple surgeries and possibly a hand transplant.
Marcy Goodrum Winter, the teen’s mother, posted on Facebook that her daughter was “groggy but cracking jokes” after her first surgery on Sunday. “She wants everyone to know that sharks are still good people,” her mom was quoted saying on the GoFundMe page.
Paige Winter is a junior at New Bern High School in eastern North Carolina, according to the school’s Facebook page. New Bern is about 120 miles southeast of Raleigh.
Charlie Winter’s fearless attack on the shark has won him praise across the country, particularly from news outlets that cover the U.S. Marines. “Who needs a bigger boat when you have a Marine’s fists?” wrote TaskandPurpose.com.
The “horrific shark attack” occurred about 12:20 p.m. Sunday off Fort Macon State Park at Atlantic Beach, according to the GoFundMe page. Paige Winter was taken to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, where she was listed in good condition after surgery, according to the GoFundMe page.
“Her family expresses their appreciation for the first responders, the individuals on the beach who helped and her heroic father who saved her life,” the page says. “Despite this unfortunate circumstance, Paige is an unwavering advocate for the marine life and the animals.”