Teen Who Lost Leg In Shark Attack Faces Her Fears to Be a Better Advocate for Sharks
Paige Winter is facing her fears to help keep the world's sharks stay safe.
In 2019, Winter, then 17, was attacked by a shark while swimming in waist-deep water at Atlantic Beah in North Carolina. The "horrific" encounter left Winter with "deep lacerations to her leg, pelvic, and hand areas," the Atlantic Beach Fire Department told PEOPLE shortly after the attack.
Due to the severity of the attack and the injuries she received, Winter's left leg was amputated above the knee. Winter's father, Charlie, kept the attack from getting worse by punching the shark until the animal let his daughter go.
Even after everything she has endured, Winter has remained a fierce advocate for sharks and conserving shark species. Shortly after her attack, Winter expressed her lasting respect for sharks and all other sea creatures.
"Despite this unfortunate circumstance, Paige is an unwavering advocate for the marine life and the animals who live in the water. She wishes for people to continue to respect sharks in their environment and their safety," Winter's family shared in a statement obtained by ABC News following the teen's attack.
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Winter's entire shark attack story and how she has continued to speak up in support of sharks is explored in the new SharkFest specialSharkAttack Investigation: The Paige Winter Story, which premieres July 12 on National Geographic.
In the show, experts explore the details of Winter's shark attack to see if they can determine the species of shark responsible and help prevent similar attacks from occurring.
Both Winter and her father face their understandable fears about coming in close contact with sharks and meet their first shark since Winter's attack in the special.
PEOPLE has an exclusive first look at this encounter. In the clip above, Winter and her father meet a nurse shark and speak about what it is like to be near one of these creatures again.
"I love nurse sharks so much. I think they are so neat," Winter says in the video. "I think once I get more used to my prosthetic leg and gain more skills with it, I'd be super open to go and actually touch a shark."
To learn more about this amazing shark advocate and shark attack survivor, watch the premiere of SharkAttack Investigation: The Paige Winter Story on July 12 on National Geographic at 10 p.m. EST/ 9 p.m. CST. The special will also air on Nat Geo WILD on August 6 at 10 p.m. EST/ 9 p.m. CST and will be available to stream on Disney + starting July 16.
Paige Winter, her family recall dramatic shark attack and rescue with details of recovery over the last year
It's been over a year since Paige Winter lost her leg and part of her hand from a bull shark attack off the coast of North Carolina in which her father fearlessly jumped to the rescue.
But like the tide, Winter and her family's road to recovery have had highs and lows.
Charlie Winter looks at his daughter Paige Winter on the same beach where she survived a shark attack.
Winter first told Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview on "Good Morning America" weeks after the incident that she refused to let the attack keep her down. Now, in a stunning new Robin Roberts event special, "Shark Attack: The Paige Winter Story," she and her family share exclusive details of the dramatic rescue, inspiring moments from their strides toward progress over the last year and her emotional return to the beach where the life-changing incident took place.
"Summer 2019 was looking very promising. You know, school was about to end," Winter told ABC News thinking back to her summer vacation plans before the attack. "It was lookin' pretty good. I was excited. I was happy. Then, you know, sometimes things happen."
Paige, Charlie and Anais Winter take a family selfie.
Winter, who was 17 at the time, said that on Sunday June 2, her father Charlie Winter "wanted to have a family day," but little did any of them know how much their strength and bond would be tested.
"Everybody needed to get out. Everybody needed to just play," Charlie Winter recalled."We're going to go have a good day at the beach. And that's what we did."
The group -- including Winter's best friend Kale Wynant, who her mom Marcy Winter said she considers part of the family -- went to Ft. Macon Beach and after finding a spot on the sand, made their way into the water.
Paige Winter undergoes treatment after she was attacked by a bull shark off the coast of North Carolina.
Winter recalled that it had "rained really hard the night before" and explained that made the water "brackish" and murky. "It was shallow for a long time and at first I'm like, 'ugh I'm gonna go back, this is cold,'" but said she eventually decided to stay in.
Once in the water with her sister Anais Winter and best friend Kale, she noticed her dad attempting to sneak up on them.
Winter said she stepped on something in the water and thought it was her dad, thinking to herself "'That's fine. Real funny.' And then I was like, 'Ow. That kind of hurts.' And then, I get pulled underwater. Like, completely yoked."
Paige Winter in the hospital after surviving a shark attack in 2019.
"When I came back up, I saw Paige get pushed out of the water, like pushed upwards," Wynant recalled. "I just heard Anais say, 'Paige, what are you doing?'"
Anais Winter was the first of the family to see what was unfolding in the water.
"I saw her get taken down by the shark and then I saw her blood come up," she said.
Paige Winter stands using a walker after she recovered from a shark attack in 2019.
Winter likened the feeling of being pulled relentlessly to "playing with a dog" when it clings onto and shakes a rope side to side. "And then I was like, I don't know what to do,'" she added.
Charlie Winter says he has lingering nightmares. Clinical psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere explains what can happen to parents who witness trauma to their children.
"Shark Attack: The Paige Winter Story" – The stunning Robin Roberts event special airs TONIGHT at 10|9c on ABC
As she felt the shark's teeth, which she compared to a bear trap, pierce into her hand, Winter attempted to break free. She said the shark let go for a moment and then bit down on her left leg instead.
"It happened really fast, but a lot of thoughts were going through my head," she remembered. "'Am I going to drown or am I going to bleed out? I really don't want to die.' So I started praying."
ABC News/Rock’n Robin Productions
Charlie Winter speaks to Robin Roberts about saving his daughter from a shark attack in 2019.
Her dad, a former Marine turned firefighter, immediately rushed to help his daughter.
"I ran, I just started running. It didn't take me long to get there, but I just got there. I just ran, I ran where the pink was moving and I dove under and I grabbed Paige with my left arm and I brought her up," he said. "When I brought her up, there was resistance."
Charlie Winter recalled the moment he came face to face with the ocean predator that he had to fight off.
Charlie and his daughter Paige Winter take a photo in the hospital while she recovered from a shark attack.
"There was a shark, this shark, this huge shark and it thrashed," he said. "And I knew I had Paige and it was pulling me, and I had to anchor my feet down in the sand to stop me from moving out. And I just started to hit it. I hit it, man. I hit it so hard. So many times, just started to hit it."
Thinking back on the incident, Charlie Winter added, "I took that moment in, 'cause I needed to take that moment."
"I was looking at it, and I could feel the raw power of what that shark was trying to do," he said. "That shark wasn't there to be my friend. It tried to kill my daughter."
After he scooped her out of the water, Charlie Winter held her as her leg bled out and said, "I thought I was carrying my dead child."
911 dispatchers received frantic calls about the shark attack, with witnesses saying Winter's leg was "almost gone." One witness said fearfully, "I don't know if she's gonna make it."
Paige Winter flexes her arm after she lost two fingers and part of her left leg due to a shark attack in 2019.
"I thought this was it. She kept talking, she kept talking, she kept talking," Winter's dad said.
Paige remembered, "I was just saying, 'Dad, please help me. Please help me.' And he's like, 'I got you. I got you."
"I kept saying, 'I got you. I got you. I got you. I got you,'" Charlie Winter recalled of the repeated promise to get her out alive.
Charlie Winter with his newborn daughter Paige Winter.
Winter's father thought back to when Paige was just a newborn and said, "I knew it was my job and my responsibility to take care of this little -- this little baby." After Charlie Winter got out of the Marine Corps, he became a firefighter and paramedic, because he said, "I wanted her to be proud to go to school, and say what her dad did for a living."
"I think my dad is like a real actual hero, you know? He goes and he saves lives every day. He does all the things he can," Winter said. "He does his job really well."
Although Winter's parents have not been married since she was nearly 2 years old, the pair told ABC News the decision to co-parent has made them good friends and they agree that they have "done a really good job."
ABC News/Rock’n Robin Productions
Paige Winter and her dad Charlie Winter stand on the beach where she was attacked by a shark one year earlier.
Marcy Winter described her ex-husband as stalwart, steadfast and reliable, adding, "my kids have grown up knowing not only that people like that exist, but they've also got the safety net of knowing that like that person super exists in their world."
Tune in Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on ABC to hear more about her surgery, recovery and life over the last year after the attack, including her first steps using a prosthetic leg, her triumphant milestones during her senior year of high school and the emotional return to the scene on the shore where the attack took place.
19-year-old who survived shark attack on North Carolina coast to be featured on National Geographic
Paige Winter, of New Bern, North Carolina, was just 17 years old when she lost her left leg and two fingers following a shark attack in Atlantic Beach in 2019.
'Everybody's normal is different': Paige Winter reflects on life after losing leg in shark attack
Her experience will be featured in the upcoming "Shark Attack Investigation: The Paige Winter Story." The special will unpack details of Winter's attack and the inspirational story of how she remains an advocate for sharks.
Shark Attack Investigation: The Paige Winter Story premieres Monday, July 12 at 10/9c on National Geographic and will be streaming on Disney+ beginning July 16.
"These type of things don't happen a lot, so go out and have fun," Winter told ABC11's Steve Daniels. "You're odds are that you will have a great day."
WATCH: 'I'm not ready to die': Paige Winter describes surviving shark attack
"As long as you have the right people around you, as long as you have that support system, it won't even feel like anything. As long as you don't beat yourself down, and it's okay to have bad days, but as long as you don't beat yourself down into a hole, you'll overcome," Winter said on facing setbacks in life.
The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of National Geographic Partners, Disney + and this station.
Paige Winter, 19, Returns to Water 2 Years After Losing Leg in Shark Attack
It was a triumphant return to the water as Paige Winter faced her fears head-on in the middle of the ocean. It was the first time Winter, 19, has been up close with sharks since she was famously attacked by one two years ago off the coast of North Carolina in waist-deep water.
Her father came to her rescue, punching the shark in the nose to get it to release his daughter.
“While I was underwater, I kind of came to terms with the fact that I was going to die. And then I kind of changed my mind real quick. I was like, ‘No, don’t want to do that,'" Winter said.
Paige now walks with a prosthetic leg. Her journey back to the water was documented by National Geographic in a new special, “Shark Attack Investigation: The Paige Winter Story.”
Biologist Dr. Mike Heithaus accompanied Winter on her return to the ocean.
“Despite the adversity, she was able to kind of see the perspective of what’s out there. I mean, these are not animals that are targeting people or doing anything from a position of malice. So I think it just shows her maturity to really understand what happened,” Heithaus said.
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North Carolina teen Paige Winter recalls terrifying shark attack: 'I just knew it was bad'
A North Carolina teenager who survived a brutal shark attack earlier this month dared to relive the terrifying moment in an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America."
Paige Winter, 17, was attacked while swimming in waist-deep waters off the coast of North Carolina on June 2. She lost two fingers and her left leg was amputated, but she refuses to let the attack keep her down.
"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 "GMA" in an interview airing Tuesday. "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."
The teen was swimming in the ocean with her sister and brother on a warm Sunday afternoon, enjoying the sun and pretending to be mermaids, when things suddenly took a turn for the worst. Something started to pull her underwater.
At first, she thought it was one of her siblings grabbing her leg as a joke, but then she started to feel a weird "snapping" sensation -- something she said 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."
"I remember giving up for a second, and then I just start like laying there … and then I was like, 'no, wait a minute, I can't do that. Like, that's not an option!'"
Winter said her body went into shock and she eventually stopped feeling pain. She said she mustered up all her strength and tried "prying" the animal off of her, but it was too strong.
Beginning to lose hope, she started to pray for a miracle.
"I'm like, 'I'm 17, like, please don't let me die. Like, I'm not ready to die, I have stuff to do. Like, so much,'" she said, recalling her brief conversation with God. "My body went into shock. So I couldn't feel anything, I just knew it was bad."
The teenager suffered "deep lacerations to her leg, pelvic and hand areas" and had to be airlifted to a trauma center. Despite her injuries, the vibrant teen said she hopes to turn it into a positive experience.
Luckily, her father, Charlie Winter, manged to punch the shark in a move that may have saved her life, authorities said. Now she calls him her hero.
Paige Winter said she still remembers how she felt when her father placed her over his shoulder and brought her back to safety.
"I was like, 'Dad, please help me!' I remember being really quiet," she said. "And at one point his energy, like, dropped. He's like, 'I can't … I can't, man,' and I was like, "Yes, you can, please help me."
Charlie Winter said he ran as fast as he could when he realized his daughter was in danger.
"You could tell where she was because you could see pink on the water," he told "GMA." "I dove under. It was about 5 feet. She was already getting pulled back and so I dove in where -- she was movin' back. That's where I dove in and I grabbed her."
Within a matter of seconds, he found himself staring eye-to-eye with a massive shark.
"I pulled her up. You could see the shark come up right with her. And then I just immediately just start beating it with everything I could," he said. "He was just staring at my sideways, just the biggest, blackest eye piercing. It was just no negotiating with it."
Today, the family says they're still working to get used to "the new normal," but Paige Winter says she doesn't feel any anger toward the shark who attacked her.
"This situation has urged me to learn more about sharks. Because even in the back of that ambulance and in the back of that truck, I was like, 'Guys, sharks are still good people. Like, don't get mad at the shark. The shark is fine," she recalled with a smile. "I was just trying to assure them that me and that shark are good, like, we're good."
Paige Winter’s family has set up a GoFundMe fundraising page called “Prayers For Paige” to help with the cost of her surgeries and recovery process.
'Everybody's normal is different': Paige Winter reflects on life after losing leg in shark attack
It's been a turbulent and trying year for the young girl, who would normally be starting a life of her own. Instead, she's dealt with the loss of her independence in some respects. Being a teenager in the midst of a global pandemic is hard enough, but Winter has taken the hand she was dealt and is persevering.
"I'm not really able to do all of the things that I used to do," Paige told ABC's Robin Roberts in a special set to air Thursday night. "I'm still Paige-y, just a little different."
WATCH: 'I'm not ready to die': Paige Winter describes surviving shark attack
In a trailer for the special, Paige is seen being announced as a homecoming queen candidate at New Bern High School and undergoing physical therapy. Her struggles are shown as well, but she keeps a good perspective.
"I feel like this is kind of like a triumph for me because people thought I was going to die," Paige said. "But I am not dead. I am indeed very much alive."
Life will probably never resemble anything normal again, but in the age of COVID-19, many have learned the same thing Paige has in recent months.
"Everybody's normal is different," she said.
"Shark Attack: The Paige Winter Story" airs Thursday night at 10 EST on ABC.
WATCH: Paige Winter's father talks about fighting the shark off his daughter
SEE ALSO: Robert Downey Jr. asks Atlantic Beach shark attack survivor Paige Winter to join his Footprint Coalition
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By Leslie Moreno, WRAL multimedia journalist
Paige Winter, a North Carolina native, will be making an appearance on National Geographic’s Shark Fest next week. She was attacked by a shark two years ago in Atlantic Beach at the start of the summer travel season.
Winter was at Fort Macon State Park when she said she felt a tugging at her leg while swimming in waist-deep water. At the time, she had no idea it was a shark, or that she would be fighting for her life.
"I thought to myself, 'Wow, I have a great family, just got a boyfriend and I have great friends.' I have to see it through, and so, I just prayed, 'Don't let me die,'" recalled Winter.
Winter, who was 17 years old at the time of the attack, ended up having her left leg amputated above the knee and suffered extensive injuries to her hands.
"It was hard, but I was more focused on me and my recovery rather than, 'Oh, that was a shark,'" she said.
Winter's father rushed into the water to fight off the shark and punched it over and over again in a bid to rescue his daughter.
"It was just an immediate dad thing," Charlie Winter said during a press conference in 2019. "When I pulled her up, a shark came up with her, and it was a big shark. The head was, it was a big shark. It kind of thrashed a little bit, and it had a big, just a big eye staring at you."
Winter was taken to Carteret Health Care in Morehead City before being airlifted to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.
Winter lost her ring finger and pinkie on her left hand, in addition to having her leg amputated.
"I had to have tendon repairs on four of these fingers. This thumb was untouched. My left hand, I can't feel anything in it, and this finger doesn't have any major arteries anymore. This thumb was bitten twice, but it's still there, and this whole section of my hand is a piece of my back," Winters described about her hands after the attack.
After being released from the hospital, Winter underwent physical therapy.
Now, she said she's reached a place in her life where she's at peace with the attack.
She wants to use her experience to lessen the stigma around sharks.
"I still prefer the pool, as you can probably imagine," said Winter, "but I have gone to that beach with my dad, and we did go into the water for a second, and it was really nice."
The Shark Fest episode Winter will be featured on airs Monday on National Geographic.
Winter said the episode will focus on shark education.
She added that she's hoping to go back to school and study marine biology.
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