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
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.