NBC News and news services
updated 7/1/2011 5:54:56 PM ET 2011-07-01T21:54:56

When 10-year-old Cassidy Cartwright says she survived a shark attack while on vacation in  North Carolina, believe her.

The Pennsylvania girl nearly lost her leg after being bitten by a predator in just three feet of water at North Topsail Beach, town officials say.

Cassidy said she was wading in the water when she felt something tug on her leg. The shark bit her twice on the leg before letting go, she said.

"I didn't hurt at first," Cassidy told WWAY, ABC News' affiliate in North Carolina. "It pulled me down, and it hurt. I just thought it was somebody messing around, and I found out that it wasn't 'cause it pulled me down again."

The child's mother, Carolyn Cartwright, recalled the moment when she realized something was terribly wrong with her daughter.

"Her leg was wide open and it was just... a lot of blood," said Carolyn Cartwright, the affiliate reported. "At that point I guess we assumed it was a shark bite, but it wasn't until we got to UNC that they had found a shark tooth in her leg."

The girl was airlifted to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill where doctors were able to save her leg. She was expected to be released Friday.

The last shark bite at North Topsail Beach happened in 2007. Onslow County is now tied with New Hanover County for having the most shark bites in the state; each has had nine since 1935.

NBC News' affiliate WITN in North Carolina contributed to this report.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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