Robert Downey Jr.’s Message to Shark Attack Victim: His Special Invitation to the Inspiring Teen

Robert Downey Jr. is being called a real-life superhero yet again, this time recording a message for a shark attack victim and even recruiting her to be a part of his climate change coalition. Oh, and he’s following her on Instagram too, so that’s pretty cool.

Robert Downey Jr. 'Avengers: End Game' Press Conference In Seoul
Robert Downey Jr. | The Chosunilbo JNS/Imazins via Getty Images

North Carolina teen Paige Winter was attacked by a shark

Paige Winter, a North Carolina teenager, survived a shark attack earlier this month. She recounted the terrifying turn of events during an interview with Good Morning America. The 17-year-old was swimming in waist-deep water off the coast of North Carolina on June 2 when she was attacked.

As a result, she lost two fingers and her left leg was amputated. She has a surprisingly positive attitude about what happened, sharing, “I was aware from the beginning, nothing’s gonna be the same ever again. Like, I’m still Paigey. Just a little different.”

She added: “I got some pieces of the puzzle missing. But it’s OK… I’d rather have to go through this tough journey than, like, not being able to use my hands. Not being able to, like, walk.”

Winter explained the moment she was attacked, believing at first one of her siblings was grabbing, her leg, but when she felt a “snapping” sensation, she said, “I’m like, ‘Is this, like, a snapping turtle? Like, what’s happening?'”

Winter shared that she tried to pry the shark off, but was unsuccessful, and then she prayed, explaining, “I’m like, ‘I’m 17, like, please don’t let me die. Like, I’m not ready to die, I have stuff to do. Like, so much.'”

She added, “My body went into shock. So I couldn’t feel anything, I just knew it was bad.”

Her father, Charlie Winter, punched the shark and saved her life. She suffered “deep lacerations to her leg, pelvic and hand areas” and was airlifted to a trauma center.

Her positive attitude is inspiring

The teen has somehow found the positivity despite the circumstances, sharing, “This situation has urged me to learn more about sharks. Because even in the back of that ambulance and in the back of that truck, I was like, ‘Guys, sharks are still good people. Like, don’t get mad at the shark. The shark is fine.’ I was just trying to assure them that me and that shark are good, like, we’re good.”

Winter had issued a statement through the Vidant Medical Center where she was being treated, noting: “Despite this unfortunate circumstance, Paige is an unwavering advocate for the marine life and the animals who live in the water. She wishes for people to continue to respect sharks in their environment and their safety.”

Robert Downey Jr. reached out with a special message

After hearing about Winter’s story, Robert Downey Jr. had a surprise message for the teen — and an invitation for her to join his Footprint Coalition climate change initiative.

In his message, he noted: “This is a heroic story of resilience, I got to tell you, and you’re not alone, but not just because of folks who have had similar stuff happen, but also because of your interest in sustainability and preservation of our oceans and marine life and all that stuff.”

He added: “I’m a fan, I got to tell you. And of course, yes, I will follow you on Instagram, let’s get that out of the way. But also, kind of like Tony with Peter Parker a few years back, I’m in a bit of a recruitment mode, so I wanted to see if you would join my Footprint Coalition, and be my North Carolina ambassador?”

He continued: “Great! You’re in, I’ll find you next week and we’ll start talking about it.”

Downey Jr. hopes to launch the Footprint Coalition in April 2020, as he shared earlier this month at Amazon’s re:MARS artificial intelligence conference: “Between robotics and nanotechnology, we could clean up the planet significantly, if not totally, in 10 years.”