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NC man recounts bloody battle with shark on Outer Banks

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NORFOLK, Va. -- Patrick Thornton was already bleeding by the time he spotted a 5-foot-long shark swimming around him.

Thornton, 47, of Charlotte, talked with The Virginian-Pilot by phone from his hospital room at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital on Monday about his encounter last week.

The attack happened about a half mile south of Avon Pier on Hatteras Island on Friday morning.

Thornton told the newspaper he had been vacationing with his family on the Outer Banks and they'd been swimming in the same area at the beach in Avon all week.

At about 11:30 a.m. Friday, he said he was playing in the surf with his son and daughter when he felt a bite on his ankle and noticed he was bleeding.

"I yelled, 'Shark, shark!'" he said.

People around Thornton scrambled out of the water. Thornton told the newspaper he felt the shark latch onto his back. He said he punched it in the head and side three times before it let go.

He said he lunged out farther into the ocean to protect his 8-year-old son, who was paralyzed with fear. He said he pushed his son toward the shore and the shark leapt from the water and bit into his back again.

Thornton said he elbowed the shark in the nose and it let go, giving him a chance to get to shore.

He suffered deep puncture wounds to his back and lost 10 inches of skin just above his ankle. He was flown to the hospital for treatment and was scheduled to be released on Monday.

On Saturday, an 18-year-old was swimming with other people near Waves when the shark bit his calf, buttocks and both hands.

The teen was listed in critical condition but has been upgraded to serious condition.

The attacks mark the sixth incident on North Carolina beaches in June. Last year, there were only four reported in the state through the summer.

Related: Why so many NC shark attacks? Expert sees ‘perfect storm’ of factors