Swimmers headed back into the waters off of Virginia Beach just hours after a 10-year-old boy died after a shark attacked him while he was wading in four feet deep water with his father.
David Peltier was about 50 yards from shore with his father, Richard Peltier, when he was attacked. He died shortly before 4 a.m. this morning at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk.
Witnesses said the father wrestled with the shark and tried to free his son of its jaws.
"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," said Bub Langford, who witnessed the attack from the beach.
The attack occurred in Sandbridge Beach, a remote coastal community just south of Virginia Beach, at about 6 p.m. on Saturday. It's the latest in a spate of highly publicized shark attacks this summer.
The beach was closed after the attack but reopened today.
According to witnesses, the 7-foot to 9-foot shark grabbed David's left leg. The boy's father immediately went to help his son, hitting the shark on the head with his fists and trying to pry his mouth open.
The shark released the boy's leg after the father reportedly hit the shark in its eyes. David was then brought to the shore bleeding heavily from his severely injured leg.
Paramedics and lifeguards at the beach treated David before he and his father were brought to the hospital.
Richard was treated for a hand injury that occurred while trying to save his son.
"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.
No Further Sign of Sharks Found
Surveillance teams worked in the water and by helicopter at 7 a.m. ET searching for signs of sharks, and determined that the beaches were safe to be reopened. Officials at a press conference this morning said no further signs of sharks were evident.
Marine experts are not sure what type of shark attacked David, but they believe that it could have been a sandbar shark.
Family members and other beachgoers who saw the attack on the shore of the small beach town were in shock.
"He had two brothers who also had their surfboards, and they just were standing on the beach crying hysterically," said Rex Carter, a witness to the attack. "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."
Carter also commented on the father's courage to fight off the shark. "You could actually see [Peltier] fighting off the shark and sort of pushing the shark away and pulling the kid," he said.
Shark Attacks Actually Down
Although this is the first reported shark attack in the area in the past 30 years, it closely resembles the attack and rescue of 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast. Arbogast's arm was severed while swimming at a beach on Florida's Gulf Coast. 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.
While shark attacks garnered much attention this summer, the numbers reflect that shark attacks are actually down. Last year, there were 79 shark attacks worldwide — more than 50 of them in the United States.
Of the 40 attacks reported worldwide this year, 28 were in Florida. None of the previous U.S. attacks was fatal, reports The Associated Press.
The beaches in and around Virginia Beach were closed after Saturday's attack but reopened today.
Oberndorf also said that lifeguards were briefed this morning on what to look for while on their watch to make sure no further accidents happen. "We're doing everything possible to safeguard swimmers at Virginia Beach," said Ed Brazle, division chief for the city's Emergency Medical Services. "Swimmers need to be alert, and swim in lifeguarded areas."