Atlantic Beach, NC – A fearless U.S. Marine veteran battled with a shark to save his teen daughter from a vicious attack on Sunday.
Charlie Winter was enjoying a day in the sun and surf at Fort Macon State Park with his 17-year-old daughter, Paige, when the harrowing encounter occurred, Today reported.
“They were standing in waist-deep water and chatting and then Paige suddenly got pulled under,” explained Charlie’s friend and fellow firefighter, Brandon Bersch.
Charlie, a City of Havelock firefighter and paramedic, quickly realized that his daughter was under attack, and began punching the apex predator repeatedly on the nose.
“Charlie wouldn’t stop until it released his little girl,” Bersch told Today. “He lives for his children.”
The seasoned first responder applied pressure to his daughter’s bleeding leg as he rushed her out of the water.
“Her leg is almost gone,” a man told the 911 dispatcher. “She needs probably life-flighted out or something. I don’t think she’s gonna make it, man – she’s in bad shape.”
The high school junior was airlifted to Vidant Medical Center, where she was immediately taken into surgery.
In order to save her life, doctors were forced to amputate her left leg above her knee.
She also lost several fingers as a result of the attack, and will need more surgeries in the future.
“Paige is alive today because of her father,” Bersch told Today.
Despite the severity of her injuries and the long road to recovery that lies before her, the teen has remained upbeat and optimistic.
"As soon as Paige woke up at the hospital, she made a comment about how she doesn’t have animosity toward sharks and she still loves the sea,” Bersch said.
Her mother, Marcy Winter, reiterated that point in a social media post, Today reported.
“[Paige] wants everyone to know that sharks are still good people,” Marcy wrote.
Paige later released a statement from her hospital bed.
“Although I have extensive injuries, including an amputated leg and damage to my hands, I will be okay,” the courageous teen said. “I know I have a long road to recovery…I will continue to stay positive and be thankful that it was not worse.”
A fundraising campaign to help Paige and her family in the wake of the incident has raised over $56,000.
All of the teen’s orthotic and prosthetic needs “will be free of charge,” thanks to the East Carolina Brace and Limb Company, according to the fundraising page.
Paige and her family said they are thankful for the outpouring of support they have received, and that they are especially appreciative of the bystanders and first responders who rushed in to help save Paige’s life.
Experts believe that the predator that attacked the teen was likely a bull shark, Today reported.
Florida Program for Shark Research manager Tyler Bowling said that shark attacks are very rare, and that Charlie handled the terrifying encounter perfectly.
“Hitting a shark in the snout or the gills is the best defense if you are being attacked,” Bowling confirmed. “He absolutely did the right thing.”
It wasn’t the first time the Marine veteran saved the life of a child.
He was awarded the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. National Firefighter Award after rescuing a two-year-old boy from a home that was fully engulfed by flames back in 2013.
“Charlie is the bravest man I know,” Bersch told Today.