North Carolina Shark Attack: Girl, 17, Saved By 'Heroic' Dad Who 'Punched the Shark in the Face Five Times'

A teenager was airlifted to hospital yesterday after being injured in a shark attack at a beach close to North Carolina's Fort Macon State Park, officials say.

Park ranger Paul Terry told WCTI-TV responders arrived on the scene in Atlantic Beach at around 12:20 p.m. The girl, 17, was taken to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. Initial reports from officials said she suffered "severe injuries to her leg and hands from a marine animal bite."

Vidant Medical Center named the victim as Paige Winter and confirmed she was recovering from a shark attack on Sunday afternoon.

The North Carolina hospital's statement continued: "She is in good condition and receiving excellent care. Her family expresses their appreciation for the first responders, the individuals on the beach who helped and her heroic father who saved her life. Despite this unfortunate circumstance, Paige is an unwavering advocate for the marine life and the animals who live in the water. She wishes for people to continue to respect sharks in their environment and their safety."

On Sunday, officials from Atlantic Beach Fire Department said Winter had "deep lacerations to her leg, pelvis and hand areas" after the attack, not immediately mentioning the shark.

Janet Winter, who identified herself as the victim's grandmother on Facebook, wrote the teen "will lose one leg above the knee and some fingers." The woman added: "Thank God our son [the girl's father] was with her he said he punched the shark in the face 5 times before it let go. Wish we could be with them." In the comment section, she later wrote: "Surgery over she is still alive one leg gone."

The teenage victim's father has not yet been identified.

Relative Marcy Winter added: "Paige is out of surgery and awake, she's still pretty groggy but cracking jokes. She wants everyone to know that sharks are still good people."

A woman in the area at the time of the attack, Lacy Whorton, told WRAL-TV: "Everyone started screaming, and I looked to my left and they were rushing towards this little girl.

"It looked like she was belly crawling on the beach and officials were running towards her and whistles were blowing. Everyone was screaming and they quickly got... out of the water."

Atlantic Beach, North Carolina
The teen, 17, was taken to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. Initial reports from fire officials said she suffered “injuries to her leg and hands from a marine animal bite.” Atlantic Beach/Facebook

A park ranger identified only as "Terry" said two sharks were seen in the waters after the incident, North Carolina news outlet CBS17 reported. The breed of shark was not immediately clear.

Deputy chief Casey Arthur told WCTI-TV that officials for the beach—which is controlled by the park rangers—urged the public to stay out of the water, but did not fully close down the area.

He said: "Any type of marine animal attack, whether it be some type of fish or stingrays—more often—those are fairly rare. Especially when you talk about a shark bite. We do not experience that very often, nor does anyone else in the United States. I think the average for the year is between 15 and 16." He said a marine biologist would be called in to evaluate the case.

Historical statistics—including some compiled by National Geographic—suggest that the U.S. has averaged 16 shark attacks every year. More recent studies have since emerged, providing insights into the scope of both provoked and unprovoked attacks globally.

Last year, the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File concluded there were 66 unprovoked shark attacks and 34 provoked shark attacks on humans last year worldwide.

In 2018, it recorded five fatal shark attacks, four of which were unprovoked. Out of the 66 unprovoked cases worldwide, the U.S. experienced the most in 2018—with 32 confirmed cases. There were 53 unprovoked shark attack incidents in the U.S. in 2017.

The 32 cases represented 48% of the worldwide total of unprovoked cases last year. There were 16 incidents in Florida alone. In North Carolina, the analysis listed three unprovoked attacks.

"The somber truth is that most of the world's shark populations are in decline, or exist at greatly reduced levels, as a consequence of overfishing and habitat loss," the study authors said at the time.