- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 5, 2001

RICHMOND (AP) — David Peltier was clinging to life in a Norfolk hospital. His mother, Carol Miles, was more than 40 minutes away, sitting in a car outside a 7-Eleven on U.S. Route 17 in Yorktown, Va.
Mrs. Miles, who was driving to Norfolk from Warsaw with a friend, was frantic, far from home and in an unfamiliar town. A shark had just attacked her 10-year-old son at Virginia Beach, and all she could think of was getting to him.
She placed a 911 call from the convenience store to the York County Sheriff's Office about 9 p.m. Saturday, hoping someone there could help her get to the hospital.
Deputy Sheriff John Graca Jr., a father of two, responded.
"I have children. … All I kept playing in the back of my mind was that this kid may be fighting for his life, that she was depending on me … for a chance to see her kid for the last time," he said.
It was a long ride to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where David was initially being treated. Deputy Graca had the lights and sirens running during the 40-mile trip.
"We hopped on the interstate, and I could just imagine the thoughts that were running through that mother's head," Deputy Graca said. "She was quiet sometimes. Other times she would break down, saying 'I hope he is OK.'"
Deputy Graca waited in the hospital waiting room at Sentara and went with the family when David was transferred on life support to Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters, nearby in Norfolk.
"She kept telling me, 'Please don't leave,'" Deputy Graca said.
David was surfing with his father, Richard Peltier, when the shark grabbed the boy's left leg. Mr. Peltier fought off the 4- to 6-foot shark, at first trying to pry open its jaws. When that didn't work, he beat on the shark's eyes with his fists. The shark, most likely a sandbar shark, released young David, but not before its sharp teeth raked open an artery in his left thigh.
Deputy Graca sat in the hospital room with Mrs. Miles and Mr. Peltier. A chaplain and a few others were there, also, to say their goodbyes to David.
"The mother and father were both at the head of the bed. They were touching and rubbing his face, talking about all the fun things he liked to do. Sometimes they started to laugh, a few cried," Deputy Graca said. "I think they still had a faint glimmer of hope. They kept saying that Grandma and Grandpa were coming to see him and that everything was going to be all right. The dad just stood there staring at the monitor, hoping it would change."
But David died at 3:45 a.m. Sunday, about 10 hours after the shark tore a 17-inch gash in his left thigh, tearing his femoral artery.
Deputy Graca, who had left by then, received a call from Mrs. Miles.
"It was probably about 6 a.m.," Deputy Graca recalled. "I answered the phone, and she said, 'We lost him.' I didn't know what to say. I told her I would come back and get her."
Deputy Graca picked up Mrs. Miles at the hospital and drove her back to the 7-Eleven.
"He comforted me," Mrs. Miles said.
"She kept telling me I deserve a medal of valor for this," Deputy Graca said. "I told her she deserved the medal. She stayed so strong."

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