"No one thinks it's gonna happen to them until it happens to them," said shark attack survivor Nick Arthur

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A 16-year-old North Carolina beachgoer survived a shark attack in the water last week that left him with 17 stitches and nearly 40 puncture wounds.

Nick Arthur, from Oak Ridge, was enjoying a day at Cape Hatteras with his family on Thursday when the incident occurred, Fox affiliate WGHP reported.

He was jumping over waves on a sandbar around 4 p.m. and was about 25 feet offshore when the animal struck, the National Park Service said.

Nick said the pressure of the bite was “intense,” and that he very quickly came to the realization that his attacker must be an animal of some sort.

“I didn’t know what it was, so I tried lifting my leg up out of the water, and I saw, ‘Oh, my god, there’s a 5-foot long shark attached to my leg,’ ” he told WGHP. “My hands were bleeding. There was just lots of blood and sand all mixed together. I couldn’t really see what was going on.”

Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Cape Hatteras National Seashore roadside sign
| Credit: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty

Nick was in the water with his sister and his dad, Tim, who told CNN that at first, he thought his son was just having fun.

“At first I thought he was screaming out of joy, and then I looked at him and saw the shark,” he told CNN. “He was screaming, ‘Get it off me! Let me go!’ And I jumped into action.”

As Nick attempted to pry the shark’s mouth open to free his leg, Tim began punching and kicking the animal, eventually smacking it hard enough in the nose that it let go of his son.

“I don’t think we did anything special, but it was enough to make him maybe realize there was easier prey out there,” Tim told WGHP.

The teen was treated for his injuries at a medical facility in Nags Head, and was released later that same night, the National Park Service said.

He reportedly received 17 stitches and was left with nearly 40 bite wounds.

“Even though it’s a small possibility, it’s still a possibility,” he told WGHP. “I thought, ‘There’s no way it’s gonna happen.’ No one thinks it’s gonna happen to them until it happens to them.”

There have been at least 32 "unprovoked" shark attacks in North Carolina since 2010, according to a Charlotte Observer report published in July 2019. At the time, it ranked fifth in the U.S. for number of shark attacks over the last decade.