Man punched shark in gills dur­ing at­tack to es­cape

‘A lot of this was luck,’ he says of his ac­tions, sur­vival with im­me­di­ate med­i­cal aid on scene

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - PHILIP MARCELO

BOSTON — The man bit­ten by a shark off Cape Cod this month said on Tues­day that he es­caped by punch­ing the pow­er­ful preda­tor in the gills af­ter it clamped down on his leg.

In his first in­ter­view since the Aug. 15 at­tack , Wil­liam Lyt­ton said he’d been swim­ming in about 2.4 to three me­tres of water just a few me­tres from shore when he felt an in­cred­i­ble pain shoot through his left leg and quickly re­al­ized he was be­ing at­tacked by a shark.

The 61-year-old neu­rol­o­gist from Scars­dale, New York, said he gave the an­i­mal a strong smack in the gills with his left hand, a move that likely saved his life but also re­sulted in some torn ten­dons. He now sports an arm cast as well as ban­dages and a brace around most of his left leg.

“I ini­tially was ter­ri­fied, but, re­ally, there was no time to think,” he said, re­count­ing the or­deal fol­low­ing a phys­i­cal ther­apy ses­sion at Spauld­ing Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Hospi­tal in Boston, where he’s been since Sun­day.

“It doesn’t feel like I did any­thing heroic. A lot of this was luck.”

Lyt­ton said he must have re­called from na­ture doc­u­men­taries that the gills were one of the most vul­ner­a­ble parts of the shark.

Af­ter the an­i­mal broke its grip, he took a few quick stokes back to shore, where he shouted for help.

Lyt­ton said he doesn’t re­call be­ing too far out in the water, but po­lice have said he was about 27 me­tres off Long Nook Beach in Truro, Mass.

Beach­go­ers — in­clud­ing off­duty nurses and other med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als — helped stem the bleed­ing and car­ried him up the dunes to the beach park­ing lot as he started to lose con­scious­ness from the blood loss, he re­called. Some­one also alerted his wife, who had been on the beach with their two young daugh­ters and fam­ily friends.

“The pain was re­ally ex­cru­ci­at­ing,” Lyt­ton said.

“I re­mem­ber the heli­copter land­ing and then noth­ing for the next two days.”

Lyt­ton was air­lifted to Tufts Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Boston where he said he was placed into a two­day coma, un­der­went six surg­eries and had nearly six litres of blood pumped into him.

He said he isn’t in any rush to wade back into the ocean off Cape Cod. Truro was the site of the state’s last shark at­tack in 2012; Mas­sachusetts’ last fa­tal at­tack was in 1936.

“It’s kind of ter­ri­fy­ing think­ing about it,” he said.


A man swim­ming off Cape Cod was at­tacked by a shark Aug. 15, the first shark at­tack on a hu­man at the sum­mer tourist des­ti­na­tion since 2012.

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