GREENVILLE, N.C. — A 17-year-old North Carolina girl who lost her leg in a shark attack earlier this month says she’s determined to turn it into a positive situation.
“I think with this situation, I can transform it … into something good for me, and good for sharks, and good for the environment, too,” Paige Winter said in a video message during a news conference at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.
Winter has been treated at the medical center since a shark latched on to her leg at Fort Macon State Park on June 2.
Paige’s father, Charlie Winter, helped rescue his daughter by beating the shark off of her, but he credits a long line of paramedics, doctors and nurses with saving her life.
Winter said he was just feet away from Paige in waist-deep water when he heard someone say, “shark.”
When Winter turned around, “Paige was going backwards. She was underwater.”
“It was just an immediate dad thing,” Winter said. “I dove under and I grabbed her.”
Winter said when he lifted Paige up, “a shark came with her” and he immediately started punching it, losing count of how many times.
Once the girl was free, Winter ran back toward shore with her in his arms. He said he told her, “I love you,” over and over again.
Winter said Paige was calm and quiet through the whole ordeal, eventually asking, “Can I please go to the hospital now?”
Bystanders on the beach jumped in to help, offering towels and umbrella bags to try to tie off the leg wound. Winter, a paramedic, said luckily someone walking by had a belt they could use as a tourniquet.
But Winter said, “Once I hit that beach, I was a dad. I wasn’t a paramedic anymore.”
‘Sharks are good people’
Just minutes after the attack, Paige told the paramedics treating her, “Don’t be mad. Sharks are good people,” her father said, joking that they now have “different opinions of sharks.”
“Sharks are still good people,” Paige reiterates in her video message. “They’re pretty cool.”
The teen says when the shark pulled her underwater, she began praying. “I’m 17. I’ve got so much to do,” she says.
‘Destined for great things’
Winter lost her left leg and two fingers on her left hand, doctors said Friday. There are also injuries to her right hand. Her father said they think Paige tried to pry the shark’s mouth open while she was underwater.
Dr. Eric Toschlog, the trauma medical director at Vidant Medical Center, said Winter was “incredibly calm and frankly courageous” when she arrived.
“She is doing profoundly well,” Toschlog said, and could be discharged to a rehabilitation facility next week.
“I’m going to be able to walk, I’m going to be able to write,” Winter says of her prognosis.
During the news conference Friday, Winter’s father was beaming with pride when he talked about his daughter. “Paige is going to do great things. Paige is destined for great things.”
Winter said the shark took Paige’s leg, “but it didn’t take her spirit.”