10-YEAR OLD boy dies from shark attack off Virginia coast

Sunday, September 2nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) _ A 10-year-old boy died early Sunday from wounds he suffered after being bitten in the leg by a shark while surfing off Virginia's coast _ the first fatal attack this year.

David Peltier was swimming 150 feet from shore in about 4 feet of water when he was attacked Saturday, said Ed Brazle, division chief for the city's Emergency Medical Services.

The boy was freed from the shark's jaws after his father, who was surfing nearby, hit it on the head, 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.

David lost large amounts of blood from a severed artery in his left leg and died at 3:45 a.m., said George Stinnett, a spokesman for Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk.

The attack, which occurred off Sandbridge Beach, a remote coastal community south of Virginia Beach, was the first reported in the area in 30 years.

``I speak for the entire city of Virginia Beach when I say how terribly saddened I am by this horrible accident,'' Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf said.

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, which typically are 4 to 6 feet long.

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.

The city's beaches were open Sunday as more than 40 EMS divers and a Jet Ski patrolled the waters, said Bruce Edwards, director of city's Emergency Medical Services. Authorities also drove up and down the beaches.

Several people at the Virginia Beach shoreline Sunday morning were unaware of Saturday's attack.

``Now that I know, I wouldn't get back in the water,'' said James Whitaker, 15, of Durham, N.C., who had been swimming with his boogie board as his family was winding up its vacation.

In July, a shark bit off the arm of 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast in Florida's Gulf Coast. The boy's father wrestled the shark ashore and pulled the arm from its gullet. It was later reattached and Jessie remains in a light coma.

There have been 40 shark attacks worldwide this year, according to the International Shark Attack File in Gainesville. Twenty-eight have been in Florida waters.

Last year, there were 79 shark attacks worldwide, 51 in the United States.