Hero Dad Punches Shark to Save Teen Daughter in 'Horrific' Attack: 'He Lives for His Children'
New details are surfacing about the “horrific shark attack” that cost a North Carolina teen her left leg, including news that the victim’s father wrestled with the animal to save his daughter.
Seventeen-year-old Paige Winter was with her family in waist-deep water at Atlantic Beach on Sunday when the shark attacked, according to a GoFundMe page set up for the teen. Police responded to the incident around noon and found the victim suffering “deep lacerations to her leg, pelvic, and hand areas,” an Atlantic Beach Fire Department spokesperson told PEOPLE in a statement.
Winter’s father, Charlie Winter, sprang into action when the shark pulled his daughter under.
“Charlie wouldn’t stop until it released his little girl,” close family friend Brandon Bersch told Today. “He lives for his children.”
Paige’s grandmother, Janet Winter, revealed more details in a Facebook post, reportedly writing, “He punched the shark in the face [five] times before it let go.”
Paige was airlifted to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, where she underwent emergency surgery, according to Today. Vidant officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE.
The family said Paige has had her left leg amputated above the knee and is recovering from “serious injuries to her hands,” according to the GoFundMe campaign. Still, despite the series injuries, Paige has vowed to remain optimistic.
“Although I have extensive injuries, including an amputated leg and damage to my hands, I will be okay,” Paige said in a statement shared on the fundraising page. “I know I have a long road to recovery, which includes additional surgeries. I will continue to stay positive and be thankful that it was not worse.”
Bersch said that Charlie, a veteran firefighter and paramedic, applied pressure to his daughter’s leg after the attack while bringing her back to the shore.
“He remained calm the entire time,” Bersch told Today. “Paige is alive today because of her father.”
A department spokesperson said that although authorities were not immediately able to confirm a shark was involved, “the injuries are consistent with the severity of a shark bite.”
Since the incident, officials with New Bern High School — where Paige is a junior — sent well-wishes to the teen on Facebook, and the school’s theater department reportedly performed in a fundraiser for Paige.
Now, as Paige continues to recover, she has urged the public to respect sharks and their environment.
“Despite this unfortunate circumstance, Paige is an unwavering advocate for the marine life and the animals who live in the water,” an update on the GoFundMe page states. “She wishes for people to continue to respect sharks in their environment and their safety.”