VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Wary beachgoers avoided the water on Sunday after a 10-year-old boy died from a shark bite while surfing during Labor Day weekend. It was the first fatal attack in the United States this year and the first reported in the area in 30 years.
"I’d rather give the shark a little time to get further down the coast," said Debbie Morris, 39, of Virginia Beach, who refused to allow her 11-year-old daughter into the water.
David Peltier of Richmond died at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk early Sunday after Saturday’s attack.
He suffered a 17-inch gash to his left leg and lost large amounts of blood from a severed artery, officials said.
The boy was in about 4 feet of water with his father and two brothers on a sandbar about 150 feet from shore when he was attacked, said Ed Brazle, division chief for the city’s Emergency Medical Services.
In a rescue effort similar to the one that saved 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast in Florida in July, David was freed from the shark’s jaws after his father hit the shark on the head.
Richard Peltier then carried his son ashore, where witnesses and lifeguards administered first aid. The boy’s two brothers, who also had their surfboards in the water, cried hysterically, witnesses said. The father was treated for a hand injury.
The family has refused interview requests, said Mike Carey, spokesman for Virginia Beach police. The family also asked the hospital not to release details about David’s injury or treatment.
Sandbridge Beach is a remote coastal community of elevated vacation homes within the city of Virginia Beach.
Sandbridge was closed Saturday after the attack but Virginia Beach officials reopened it Sunday morning. More than 40 EMS divers and a Jet Ski patrolled the waters, said Bruce Edwards, director of the city’s Emergency Medical Services.
Scientists with the city’s Virginia Marine Science Museum flew over the beaches in a police helicopter but didn’t spot any sharks. Maylon White, the museum’s curator, said authorities did not know what kind of shark attacked the boy, although it likely was a sandbar shark, which typically are 4 to 6 feet long.
Those sharks are not usually aggressive, White said.
"In many cases like this, the shark is feeding and it’s after fish and it mistakes the person for the fish," he said.
There have been 49 shark attacks worldwide this year, with one fatal in Brazil, said George Burgess of the International Shark Attack File in Gainesville. Twenty-eight have been in Florida waters.
Last year, there were 84 shark attacks worldwide, 53 in the United States, Burgess said.
Several hundred people were at the southern end of the Sandbridge shore at Sunday afternoon, but only a few were surfing and swimming near where the attack occurred.
"Now that I know, I wouldn’t get back in the water," said James Whitaker, 15, of Durham, N.C., who had been swimming with his boogie board as his family was winding up its vacation.
Dorothy Jarrett, 39, of Virginia Beach, surveyed the crowd and said: "You can tell it scared a lot of people away."
The International Shark Attack File: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Sharks/ISAF/ISAF.htm
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