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Sadness after fatal shark attack


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., Sept. 2 — A 10-year-old boy who died early Sunday after being bitten by a shark was described as “upbeat, happy-go-lucky.” David Peltier, about to enter the fifth grade, was enjoying his last weekend of summer break at the beach when tragedy struck.

PELTIER DIED Sunday from wounds he suffered after being bitten in the leg by a shark while standing on a sandbar just off Virginia’s coast. It was the latest in a string of shark attacks on the East Coast this summer, but Virginia Beach officials said they would not close their beaches because no other sharks were spotted.

Peltier, from Richmond, was standing on a sandbar 50 feet from shore in about 4 feet of water about 6 p.m. when a shark bit him, Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera Oberndorf told a news conference Sunday. The attack at Sandbridge Beach, a remote coastal community just south of Virginia Beach, was the first known shark attack in the area in 30 years.

Family and friends were shocked by the shark attack — the first one in the area in 30 years and the first fatal one in the United States this year.

“I just wonder why it had to be him,” the boy’s mother, Carol Miles, 29, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “He did not deserve this, but he’s in good hands now. The Lord wanted an angel, and he got one.”
The Peltier family said they deeply appreciated the expressions of concern, sympathy and support they have received from the community, and asked that prayers on their behalf continue.

“I speak for the entire city of Virginia Beach when I say how terribly saddened I am by this horrible accident,” Mayor Oberndorf said Saturday.

John Gorman, the 10-year-old boy’s neighbor, said David had a penchant for football and spent almost every afternoon at his house, playing with his daughter, Ruth, who was looking forward to being his classmate starting Tuesday.

“It’s a tragedy when you have a kid that’s hit by a car. But something like this is a freak thing,” said Gorman, 39. “I mean, there’s nobody to be mad at.”

“It’s upsetting here and here,” 10-year-old Ruth said, pointing to her heart and her head.

David was bitten on his left leg and thigh by an 8-foot shark, said Ed Brazle, division chief for the city’s Emergency Medical Services.
The boy’s father, Richard Peltier, was surfing nearby and hit the shark on the head and freed his son, Brazle said. 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 boy did not lose his leg, but the main artery in his thigh was severed, resulting in significant blood loss, a spokesperson for Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk said early Sunday.

He was first hospitalized at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital following the attack, then transferred to the trauma unit at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, and around 10:15 p.m. was taken to Children’s Hospital, where he died at 3:45 ET.
Richard Peltier was treated for a hand injury that occurred during the rescue.

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.
“Since there were no sightings of a shark, and since this is an extremely rare event … we decided that it was safe and reasonable to keep the beaches open,” said Edwards.

But beachgoers were wary.

“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.

The attack was the latest in a spate of highly publicized shark attacks this year.

Eight-year-old Jessie Arbogast survived after a shark tore off his arm as he swam off Pensacola, Florida, in July. Prompt medical attention on the beach was credited with saving his life and his severed arm was reattached in surgery, although he remains in guarded condition.

The International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida said only one death from a shark attack, in Brazil, had been reported so far this year, compared to an average of eight per year in recent years.

As of last week, 48 attacks had been reported worldwide, with 37 of those reported in the United States and 28 of those in Florida. That compares to 84 recorded worldwide last year, including 53 in the United States and 37 of those in Florida.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Cliff Etzel
Cliff Etzel
Cliff is the former Freediving editor of He is now a freelance journalist and film-maker.