Local News

NC shark attack victim asked, 'Am I going to die?'

Posted July 26, 2011 7:39 a.m. EDT
Updated July 26, 2011 12:53 p.m. EDT

— A 6-year-old Durham girl who was attacked by a shark off Ocracoke Island last week appeared on television with her parents Tuesday to share her story of survival and forgiveness.

Lucy Mangum was playing on a boogie board in about 18 inches of water last Tuesday, around 5 p.m., when she saw a shark swim toward her.

"I tried to swim away," she said.

Within seconds, the shark grabbed Lucy's right leg and foot, leaving behind two deep bite marks, exposing her tendons and muscle.

"I heard her scream, and I turned and immediately saw the shark. My instinct was to run over and get her out of the water," said Jordan Mangum, Lucy's mother.

She quickly grabbed her daughter and ran up to the beach where her husband, an emergency room physician, looked at the injuries and wrapped their daughter's leg in a T-shirt.

"My background in medicine put me at ease," said Craig Mangum.

Lucy was calm as well, according to her parents, but she still had questions – "Am I going to die? Am I going to walk? Am I going to have a wheelchair?"

"She was talking to me and actually asking questions right after it happened, so I knew she would be OK ... (but) these were questions we couldn’t answer," Jordan Mangum said.

Lucy had one more question – a special request for her father.

"She said, 'Dad, can we say a prayer?'" her mother recalled. "We said a prayer for her on the beach. Her faith and stoicism was a marvel to us."

Emergency crews flew the little girl to Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville, but her parents couldn't come along for the flight. They, along with Lucy's three siblings, had to drive several hours to get to the hospital.

Lucy suffered severe injuries to her calf muscles, Achilles tendon and other tendons and underwent two surgeries, according to Dr. Richard Zeri, who specializes in plastic and reconstructive surgery.

"I expect her to recover fully. She'll certainly need a good amount of therapy," Zeri said. "(She's an) incredible little girl."

Hours after the attack, Lucy's parents released a statement to the media saying that their daughter was "in good spirits" and had told them, "I hate sharks. I like dolphins way better."

A week after the attack, Lucy said she still prefers dolphins but has forgiven the shark that bit her.

"He didn't really mean to do it," she said, nervously covering her face with a stuffed animal dolphin as reporters asked her questions.

Doctors planned to release Lucy from the hospital Tuesday. She has a cast on her leg and needs a wheelchair to get around but is expected to fully recover.

"She's a strong little spirit, and this proves that," Craig Mangum said. "We are so grateful that our little girl is going to heal and that she still has a leg to walk on."

The Mangums said they believe their daughter was bitten by a blacktip shark. They say last week's attack won't keep them from going back to Ocracoke Island.

"Certainly be vigilant with your children, but otherwise, enjoy the beach. We certainly will. We’ll be going back as soon as Lucy’s ready," Craig Mangum said.

Ranger Kenny Ballance, of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, said late afternoon and early morning are the most common times of day to see sharks so close to shore.

A park service spokesman says the last shark bite on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was off Avon in 2001 when a man died from his injuries.