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Video: Boy survives savage shark attack

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    >>> a 12-year-old boy is recovering this morning after he was attacked by a bull shark off the texas coast . and now he's sharing his hero inning ordeal for the first time. nbc tom trang is in houston with details this morning. good morning.

    >> reporter: ann, good morning to you. what a week he has had. what started as a family vacation took a dangerous turn in a matter of seconds. nicholas is heading to the operating room for a 40 time. he doesn't need a reminder of why he's here.

    >> swimming in the surf. just having a good time. waist deep water . a shark came up and bit my foot. i was really in jock.

    >> reporter: the family was on vacation in texas. playing in the water off a sunday beach when a man-eating bull shark struck, biting into nicholas ' foot, trying to tear it off until someone pulled him to safety.

    >> i turned around and my friend mark was holding nicholas in his hands, in his arms and carrying him towards me. and, you know, i saw the he's mangled foot and a lot of blood. i know god was with us because we fought clearly. after the first shock, you know, he snapped out of that and you start thinking clearly .

    >> my dad took off his foot and wrapped it around my foot to put pressure on it to stop the bleeding.

    >> i turned around and saw them carrying nicholas and i knew right then it was pretty serious.

    >> reporter: with the help of a friend she was able to flag down a boat to get nicholas back to the shore quicker.

    >> when i put his head in my lap and he said, mom, you need to start praying.

    >> reporter: by the time nicholas arrived at the hospital he was in danger of losing his foot but his doctor was hopeful.

    >> i think he is able to come back and have a functional foot.

    >> this one was probably a few feet long.

    >> reporter: shark attacks off the u.s. coast are extremely rare. but when they happen, they're extremely dangerous . bull sharks are aggressive and comfortable in shallow water .

    >> you have a better chance of winning the lottery really than being bitten by a shark.

    >> reporter: nicholas now has one rare fishtail that needs no exaggeration.

    >> dude, i got bit bay shark.

    >> reporter: and he has big plans for the future.

    >> i want to be a fireman and have, you know, own an aquarium store because i really do love fish and i like having pet fish and fish tanks and stuff.

    >> if you want to follow nicholas ' recovery or help out this family, nicholas has set up a blog appropriately titled nicholasbitesback.com. ann?

    >> well said, all right, thanks so much this morning.

    >>> and still ahead, the mounting security concern tied to casey anthony's scheduled release from prison

TODAY contributor
updated 7/15/2011 9:16:36 AM ET 2011-07-15T13:16:36

They say you’re more likely to hit the Megaball in a lottery than get attacked by a shark, but that’s little comfort to Nicholas Vossler: the 12-year-old Texas boy nearly had his left foot ripped off by a bloodthirsty bull shark.

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In an exclusive interview on TODAY Friday, Nicholas told NBC’s Thanh Truong he was with his family on vacation near Port Arthur, Texas, on July 7 when his frolic turned into a scene of horror straight out of “Jaws.”

“We were swimming in the surf, you know, just having a good time,” Nicholas told TODAY. “I was waist-deep in water, and a shark came up and bit my foot.”

Mark Constien, a friend whose family was vacationing with the Vosslers, was near Nicholas at the time of the attack and saw the boy injured and bleeding in the 3½-foot-deep water over a sandbar. Nicholas’s dad, Cecil Vossler, was shocked at what he saw next.

“I turned around and Mark was holding Nicholas in his arms and carrying him towards me,” Vossler said. “I saw his mangled foot and a lot of blood. I know God was with us, because we thought clearly; after the first shock, you know, you snap out of that and start thinking clearly.”

‘Mom, you need to start praying’
Think clearly they did — and they likely saved Nicholas’s mangled foot in the process. Nicholas’s mom, Alisha, flagged down a speedy boat to get Nicholas back to shore, while Cecil took off his shirt and wrapped it around Nicholas’s foot to staunch the bleeding.

Still, Nicholas knew he was in trouble. Alisha Vossler told NBC, “When I put his head in my lap, he said, ‘Mom, you need to start praying.’ ”

Video: 5-year-old recounts snorkeling scare

A helicopter picked up Nicholas at a nearby dock and whisked him off to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston where, after four touch-and-go surgeries, Nicholas is expected to recover with his foot intact.

“The prognosis is good; I think he’s going to come back and have a functional foot,” the hospital’s Dr. Charles Cox told NBC.

Nicholas is only the third recorded shark attack victim in 100 years near Matagorda Island, where he was swimming. But it may surprise unwitting swimmers that sharks are often lurk right near them. Tom Harvey, a spokesman for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, told the Fort Worth Star Telegram that the bull sharks enjoy the warm coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico and get near swimmers without them being any the wiser.

Video: Rescue at sea for dad, son

“It may be cold comfort to some people, but they just don’t attack people very often at all,” Harvey said.

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But if there’s a shark who’s a prime candidate for attacking, it’s the bull shark. They are known for being particularly aggressive, and since they are comfortable in shallow water and can even tolerate fresh water, they are responsible for the bulk of near-shore shark attacks around the U.S.

For his part, Nicholas is keeping an upbeat attitude despite his brush with mortal danger. And when he recovers, he’s got a heck of a fish story to tell his buddies.

Video: Boy survives savage shark attack (on this page)

“Yo, dude, I got bit by a shark,” he deadpanned.

Nicholas is even poking a little fun at his near-miss through a blog called nicholasbitesback.com, which updates his recovery. And he maintains a love for aquatic life.

“I want to own an aquarium store,” Nicholas told NBC News. “I really do love fish, and I do like having pet fish tanks and stuff.”

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