Va. Shark Attack Beach Re-Opens as Parents and Friends Remember Victim

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The Virginia Beach, Va., seashore where the year's first fatal shark attack in the U.S. claimed the life of a 10-year-old boy this weekend remained open on Labor Day, with beach patrols vigilantly guarding the waters.

Officials had reopened the beach Sunday, as more than 40 emergency divers and a Jet Ski patrolled the waters and authorities drove up and down the beaches. They repeated the ritual Monday.

Tourists visiting the popular resort town stayed in shallow waters and on dry ground for much of Labor Day, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

"We've got an ankle-deep rule in effect," Kimberly Pugh of Richmond told the paper, her eyes glued to her toddler son, Joel, as he played in the sand. "I think it'll be in effect all this week while we're here."

Some surfers were also being careful. David Held of Williamsburg told the Times-Dispatch that though Saturday's attack wasn't going to keep him out of the waves, he was scanning the waters for the shark fins he's seen off Sandbridge beach in the past.

"I probably am looking around a little more than usual today," the paper quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, relatives of the young victim of what was believed to have been a 7- to 9-foot sandbar shark remembered David J. Peltier as an "upbeat, happy-go-lucky boy."

Peltier, of Henrico County, Va., was enjoying his last weekend of summer break at the beach when tragedy struck on Saturday. As his father and two brothers surfed nearby, a shark attacked the soon-to-be fifth-grader in only 4 feet of water, ripping a 17-inch gash in his left thigh and releasing him from its grip only after the boy's father hit the animal several times on the head and face.

The father carried David ashore but the child died at a Norfolk hospital about 10 hours later at 3:45 a.m. after losing large quantities of blood from a severed artery.

"I just wonder why it had to be him,'' the boy's mother, Carol Miles, 29, told the Times-Dispatch. "He did not deserve this, but he's in good hands now. The Lord wanted an angel, and he got one.''

The attack — Virginia Beach's first in about three decades — occurred about 50 yards from the shore off Sandbridge Beach, said Ed Brazle, division chief for the city's Emergency Medical Services.

The rescue effort was similar to the one that saved 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast, whose arm was severed, then reattached, after a shark attacked him in Florida in July. Arbogast's uncle pulled the shark ashore before the detached arm was rescued from the shark's gullet. The boy remains in a light coma.

David's father, Richard Peltier, was surfing on Saturday when he spotted the shark and shouted to his three sons, who were visiting him for the long weekend, in the water. Peltier hauled David onto his surfboard as the two older boys ran to shore, witnesses said.

The shark brushed Peltier's leg then lunged at David, who was freed from its jaws after his father hit the shark on its head. Richard Peltier then paddled to shore with his son, where witnesses and lifeguards administered first aid to the boy. Richard Peltier was treated for a hand injury.

Richard Peltier's brother, James, said he was not surprised by Richard's actions.

"He's very strong,'' he told The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk. "He always has his head about him in emergencies.''

John Gorman, the 10-year-old Richmond 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 upsetting here and here,'' 10-year-old Ruth said, pointing to her heart and her head.

Scientists with the city's Virginia Marine Science Museum flew over the beaches in a police helicopter early Sunday and didn't spot any sharks. The museum's curator, Maylon White, said authorities did not know what kind of shark attacked the boy, although it likely was a large sandbar shark.

Some beachgoers avoided the water at the oceanfront resort strip and remote Sandbridge Beach after reports of the attack spread.

"You can tell it scared a lot of people away,'' said Dorothy Jarrett of Virginia Beach.

Others, like Steve Morris of Virginia Beach, seemed undeterred by the attack and braved the rough surf. His wife, Debbie Morris, was more cautious, refusing to allow her 11-year-old daughter to enter the water.

"I'd rather give the shark a little time to get further down the coast,'' she said.

Forty-nine shark attacks have occurred worldwide this year, including a fatal one in Brazil, said George Burgess of the International Shark Attack File in Gainesville, Fla. Twenty-eight have been in Florida waters.

Last year, there were 84 shark attacks worldwide, 53 in the United States, he said.

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.

Albert Celi said he would not have waded into the water at the oceanfront resort strip with his 1-year-old son if he had known about the attack.

"It's the summer of sharks, isn't it?'' he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.