Cape Cod Shark Attack Victim Punched It in the Gills to Get Away

A New York man has survived a shark attack off Cape Cod after landing a punch on the fish's gills.

61-year-old William Lytton, of Scarsdale, was swimming in water no deeper than 10 feet in Massachusetts when the shark bit down hard on his left leg. Two weeks after the attack occurred, Lytton is recovering in Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, complete with a cast on his arm and most of his left leg covered.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Lytton said he had to act quickly when he recognized a shark had latched on. "I initially was terrified, but, really, there was no time to think. It doesn't feel like I did anything heroic. A lot of this was luck."

A New York man has revealed he punched a shark in the gills to escape its bite. William Lytton was attacked off Cape Cod earlier this month. Getty Images

In the heat of the moment, Lytton thought back to a documentary he had seen which stated the gills were a weak point for sharks. After delivering a powerful blow, he managed to swim back to shore where off-duty nurses were able to stem the bleeding. A neurologist himself, Lytton said he cannot recall anything past the emergency crews arriving.

"The pain was really excruciating," Lytton said. "I remember the helicopter landing and then nothing for the next two days. It's kind of terrifying to think about. I know it's not the best thing to say, but I didn't like sharks before, and like them even less now."

Following the attack, Lytton was airlifted to Tufts Medical Center in Boston, where he underwent six operations and received nearly 12 pints of blood to keep him alive. He was also placed into a coma.

Lytton now gets around the hospital in a wheelchair, at least until he receives more medical treatment and undergoes rehabilitation. Although the shark ripped tendons from his leg, it luckily missed most of the significant nerves and veins. The shark even left some bits of teeth in Lytton's leg, which he describes as looking "very artistic." It is not known what type of shark attacked him.

Although the idea of a shark attack can be horrifying, your chances of being bitten are very low. According to the Florida Museum's international shark attack file, a person has a one in 3,748,067 chance of being attacked by a shark. You have a higher chance of winning $10,000 in the Mega Millions lottery than you do of being attacked by a shark.

Even more surprising, you are more likely to die while taking a photo than by shark attack. In 2016, the MIT Technology Review found that 73 people died while taking a selfie and only four people died from a shark attack, according to Earth Sky.