After Thornton announced the presence of the shark, people nearby, including his niece and nephew, rushed to the shore.
From the Virginian-Pilot:
Thornton felt the shark latch onto his back. He punched it in the head and side three times before the predator let loose.He lunged further out into the ocean to save his 8-year-old son, who was paralyzed with fear. He pushed him toward the shore and put himself between the boy and the shark. The creature leaped from the water and sank its teeth into his back again. Thornton elbowed it in the nose. Three other sharks swam close by, apparently drawn to the blood coming from his leg wound, he said. Again, the shark let loose after Thornton’s blows, giving him the chance to get to shore.
“I felt really calm when I came out of the ocean,” Thornton said.
He was injured on his right leg and lower back and taken “by ambulance and airflight” to Norfolk General Hospital, the NPS said.
The Virginian-Pilot reported that Thornton lost 10 inches of skin above his ankle and was left with puncture wounds to his back; he told the paper he expects to leave the hospital soon.
Since the Friday attack, sharks attacked two others in North Carolina waters, bringing the total number of attacks this season to six in the state. On Saturday, a teenage boy swimming off the Outer Banks was critically injured and almost lost his life, a hospital spokeswoman told the Associated Press. He remains in the hospital.
For his part, Thornton said an aggressive shark will not deter him from returning to the Outer Banks.
But, he told the Virginian-Pilot: “Obviously, I will be very cautious about going into the water.”