Six-year-old girl survives shark attack

Jul 27 2011 - 8:41am

GREENVILLE, N.C. -- Sitting in a wheelchair with a colorful knee-to-toe bandage, 6-year-old Lucy Mangum expressed no fear or anger toward the shark that mangled her right leg while she was swimming at Ocracoke, on the North Carolina Outer Banks, last week.

"He didn't mean to do it," she said. "I tried to swim away."

But she also told her parents at one point, "I should have kicked him in the nose."

Lucy and her parents, Jordan and Craig Mangum of Durham, N.C., described the attack during a news conference at the East Carolina Heart Institute at Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville, N.C., where the girl has been treated.

Joining the family were doctors who said Lucy and the Outer Banks beaches should recover from the incident that attracted national attention.

Lucy was at least the second girl bitten by a shark along the North Carolina coast this summer. A 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl was bitten on the leg at North Topsail Beach last month.

Such attacks are rare.

Nationwide, the U.S. averages fewer than 40 shark attacks a year, according to the International Shark Attack File, housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Jordan Mangum said the family rode the ferry from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island to get to their favorite Ocracoke beach. They had been on the beach a couple of hours, with the children playing with boogie boards in shallow surf, when Lucy screamed.

"I turned and immediately saw a shark, and it was shocking to me in itself," Jordan Mangum said, adding that her instinct was to run over to get her daughter out of the water.

She did not realize at first that Lucy had been bitten, but then she saw that the girl's right leg was "completely open" from calf to ankle.

Jordan Mangum cupped the wounds with her hand and called to her husband, who is an emergency physician.

Craig Mangum said he knew the wound was significant and would require more than one surgery.

While working with emergency personnel on the island, they called for the EastCare helicopter to transport Lucy to the hospital in Greenville, a regional trauma center. Craig Mangum said the helicopter ambulance arrived within 35 minutes and had Lucy at the hospital in another 35.

Jordan Mangum said she could see part of the shark and estimated it was four to five feet long.

Witnesses said it appeared to be a black tip shark.

The Mangums said Lucy was very aware of what was going on around her. Her father said she asked, " 'Am I going to be in a wheelchair? Am I going to walk again? Am I going to die?' "

Jordan Mangum said Lucy was excited but not unduly frightened. She told medical staff, "This is the first time I've ever been bitten by a shark." Nor did the helicopter flight alarm her, except when it landed.

Her mother said she asked, "Who's driving this thing?"

Doctors said Lucy suffered extensive damage to muscle, ligaments and blood vessels but luckily avoided major nerve damage.

Dr. Richard Zeri, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the East Carolina University medical school at Pitt Memorial, said the case was the first shark attack his staff has treated. He noted that they have treated hundreds of dog bites.

Zeri said his young patient was remarkably calm.

"I haven't seen a single tear she's shed," he said.

Lucy wiggled and scooted around in her wheelchair while the adults talked to reporters.

She clutched stuffed animals, one of them a large blue dolphin.

At the prodding of reporters, she said she likes dolphins better than sharks.

Jordan Mangum made it clear the family had no intention of staying away from the beach.

"It's a good ending," she said. "She's going to be running and dancing and twirling just like before."



Shark attacks are rare. Fatal shark attacks are even rarer.

The chance of dying in the United States from a lightning strike is 30 times greater than that of dying from a shark attack, according to the International Shark Attack File, housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Bees, wasps and snakes are responsible for far more fatalities than sharks each year.

In North Carolina, there were five shark attacks in 2010, according to the ISAF. From 1935 to 2010, there were 41 confirmed shark attacks in North Carolina, with Onslow and Carteret counties seeing eight each.

Only three fatal attacks have been recorded for North Carolina, including one in Onslow in 1935, one in Carteret in 1957 and one in Dare County in 2001.

(c) 2011, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.).

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