A North Carolina teenager who survived a brutal shark attack earlier this month is speaking out for the very first time about the terrifying experience.
Paige Winter was swimming in waist-deep waters off the coast of North Carolina on June 2, when she became the victim of a vicious shark attack that claimed two of her fingers and her left leg.
Still, the 17-year-old says things could have been much worse.
“I was aware from the beginning, nothing’s gonna be the same ever again. Like, I’m still Paigey. Just a little different,” Winter told “Good Morning America.” “I got some pieces of the puzzle missing. But it’s OK. … I’d rather have to go through this tough journey than, like, not being able to use my hands. Not being able to, like, walk.”
It all started when Winter was playing in the water with her brother and sister. They were pretending to be mermaids and soaking up the sun when something began to pull her under the water.
At first, she thought it was one of her siblings grabbing her leg as a joke. But before long she began to notice a weird “snapping” sensation — something Winter says she’ll never forget.
“I’m like, ‘Is this, like, a snapping turtle? Like, what’s happening?'” she recalled. “Then it just starts. Like a dog [when] they get a rope and you grab the other rope and they just start going — like with their whole body.”
Winter says she remembers giving up for a brief moment before catching a second wind.
“I was like, ‘no, wait a minute, I can’t do that. Like, that’s not an option!’” she recalls.
After a few minutes, her body went into shock and she eventually stopped feeling any pain. And although she was working up all of her strength to fight the shark, nothing was working.
She began to pray.
Meanwhile, her dad, Charlie Winter, was on the move. He said he ran as fast as he could when he saw that his daughter was in danger.
“You could tell where she was because you could see pink on the water,” he told GMA.
Luckily he managed to punch the shark in a move that authorities say wound up saving the girl’s life.
Now she calls him her hero.
Winter suffered “deep lacerations to her leg, pelvic and hand areas” and had to be airlifted to a trauma center. Despite her life-changing injuries, the vibrant teen says she hopes to turn the terrifying experience into a positive one.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the cost of Winter’s surgeries and recovery.