Boy dies after shark attack
VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia (CNN) -- Beaches were open Sunday just hours after a 10-year-old boy died from injuries suffered when a shark attacked him in water 4 feet deep Saturday evening.
David Peltier of Richmond was pronounced dead at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters at 3:45 a.m. Sunday.
The attack severed the main artery in his left thigh and resulted in significant blood loss, a hospital spokesman said.
On Sunday, officials decided to keep the beaches open after a police helicopter spotted no sharks along the shore.
"Since there were no sightings of a shark and since this is an extremely, extremely rare occurrence ... we decided it was safe and reasonable to open the beaches," said Chuck Appleback, director of Emergency Medical Services.
David and his father, Richard Peltier, a resident of Virginia Beach, were on a sandbar about 50 yards offshore at 6 p.m. when the shark attacked. The water was only 4 feet deep.
Witnesses said the father hit the shark over the head to try to get it to release his son.
"I mean you could actually see him fighting off the shark and sort of pushing the shark away and pulling the kid," one witness said.
"There were shark bites all along his leg. It also looked like the shark might have got him right inside the thigh. He lost a lot of blood," the witness continued.
"He had two brothers who also had their surfboards and they were just standing on the beach crying hysterically."
David was taken to Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital, then to the trauma unit at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, and finally to Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters, where he died.
Maylin White, curator for the Virginia Marine Science Museum, said sharks typically found in Virginia Beach waters are small varieties, such as the sandbar, sand tiger and hammerhead.
Larger species, such as tiger and bull sharks, are rarely found, he said. White said he thought a sandbar shark could have been responsible for the attack, but that was not confirmed.
Forty-nine shark attacks, including the one in Virginia Beach, have been reported this year to the International Shark Attack File, based at the University of Florida. Thirty-eight of those were in the United States, 28 in Florida.
Only five shark attacks -- none of them fatal -- have been recorded in Virginia. The center covers data across the world on shark attacks since the mid-1950s.
When asked what constituted a "shark attack," George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File, said, "We count 'em all, if it involves a shark and a bite."
Only one other fatality has been reported so far this year. It was in Brazil. The total of two is far lower than the annual average of eight over the past decade, Burgess said.
He said this year's total probably would be lower than last year's as the summer comes to a close.
Burgess said sharks were overfished in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and they are slowly recovering.
"The saddest part of this story, outside of the boy's death, is that certain people [will use] this to manipulate their own goals based on this ... to go out and kill more sharks," he said.
Members of the David Peltier's family released a statement through the hospital saying they "appreciated the expressions of concern, sympathy and support they have received from the community" and asking that prayers continue on their behalf.
"I speak for the entire city of Virginia Beach when I say how terribly saddened I am by this horrible accident," said Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf.
Oberndorf has asked city public safety officials to take precautions to safeguard swimmers from shark attacks. EMS boats will patrol ocean waters and vehicles will check oceanfront beaches Monday, Labor Day.
Lifeguards were briefed Sunday morning on searching for signs of sharks. At any sign of sharks, lifeguards would require swimmers to leave the water. EMS officials urged swimmers to be alert and use caution, especially in non-guarded areas.
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