A Kentucky teenager survived a shark attack in Florida after punching the animal several times in the face as it was biting her leg, authorities said.
Caitlyn Taylor, 17, wrote on Twitter that she’s “beyond lucky to be alive” after the Sunday encounter in Destin, Fla. The Louisville teen is recovering after receiving at least 80 stitches to her right leg around her knee, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said.
Authorities said a shark sank its teeth into the girl’s leg and began tugging on it while she was waist deep in the Gulf of Mexico. It let go of her almost immediately.
“She punched it several times in the face and mouth area with both hands,” Michele Nicholson, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, told TIME on Tuesday. It’s unclear if the girl’s attempts to fight back caused the shark to retreat, but Nicholson said the punches could have only helped. “You do whatever you can to drive it away,” she said.
Witnesses told police the shark was about 5-feet long. The type of shark is still unknown. Taylor, who was in town to compete in a softball tournament, also sustained scrape wounds to her left leg and cuts to her hands in the attack, authorities said.
“Beyond lucky to be alive and well and thank you to everyone for the support and wishes,” Taylor tweeted, along with photos of her injuries. “I’m going to be okay.”
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