The traditional end of summer turned tragic this weekend when a Virginia boy lost his life in a shark attack — as his father tried to save him from the deadly creature.
Witnesses say David Peltier, 10, and some friends were playing in four feet of water about 50 yards from the shores of Virginia Beach when the ominous figure of a shark swam through.
"My wife and some other people were out here and they thought it was like a blow-up toy, but the way the child sreamed and the reaction of the dad, I knew it wasn't a toy," said Bud Langford, who witness the attack from the beach.
David's father, Richard, was surfing nearby, and rushed to his son's side as the seven- to nine-foot beast clamped down on the boy's leg.
"He had his right arm around the shark, kind of lifting it out of the water and his other hand was either banging on it or trying to pull it open to get it to turn loose of the kid," Langford said.
"You could actually see [Peltier] fighting off the shark and sort of pushing the shark away and pulling the kid," said Rex Carter, another witness to the attack.
Hero in a Tragedy
The brave dad managed to free his son and bring him to shore, but the boy was bleeding heavily from the leg wound.
"He had two brothers who also had their surfboards, and they just were standing on the beach crying hysterically," Carter said. "There were shark bites all along his leg. It also looked like maybe the shark actually got him right inside the thigh. He lost a lot of blood."
"Everybody was helping out, but the father was just incredible," said Joe Kepplar, who was on the beach when the attack occurred. "He kept his calm. He kept talking to his son, reassuring him everything was going to be OK. He's just a hero as far as I'm concerned."
Young David lost his battle at about 4 a.m. Sunday at the Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk.
The attack occurred in Sandbridge Beach, a remote coastal community just south of Virginia Beach, at about 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The beach was closed after the attack, but reopened on Sunday after surveillance teams found no signs of sharks.
"I speak for the entire city of Virginia Beach when I say how terribly saddened I am by this horrible accident," said Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf.
Summer of the Shark
Although Saturday's attack was the first in the area in 30 years, it was strikingly similar to the attack and rescue of 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast, who lost his arm to a shark while swimming in Florida's Gulf Coast earlier this summer.
His uncle wrestled the shark, and assisted in recovering the boy's arm, which was later reattached. After a series of complications, he remains in a light coma.
Experts say shark attacks are actually down this year, despite several highly publicized attacks.
Last year, there were 79 shark attacks worldwide — more than 50 of which took place in U.S. waters. Of the 40 attacks reported worldwide this year, 28 were in Florida.
This weekend's death is believed to be this first fatal shark attack in U.S. waters this year.
Grief and Shock
In David's hometown of Richmond, Virginia, the community was trying its best to absorb the news.
"I had just talked to him just the other day, and he seemed like he had a great summer, down at the beach, in the ocean, swimming with his dad," said Ruth Gorman, another friend of the victim.
"I said goodbye and have a good time and I'll see you when you come back," friend Melissa Skorupa remembers telling him before he left. [Fund in memory of David Peltier; Wachovia Bank; Business Banking; 125 Independence Blvd., Virgina Beach, Va 23462].