Fatal Virginia Beach shark attack in 2001 led to Oceanfront changes

Posted at 9:18 PM, Jun 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-09 09:03:10-04

Virginia Beach, Va. - On Sunday, Florida lifeguards saved an 11-year-old boy who was attacked by a shark. It was a scene like the one Virginia Beach lifeguards faced Labor Day weekend when a boy about that age lost his life in a Sandbridge shark attack.

The Virginia Beach attack sparked a Shark Attack Task Force, and later a group that examined the safety of the beaches.

Ed Brazle, now a division chief for Virginia Beach EMS, says the most visible changes are the lifeguards. They staff the lifeguard stands until sunset instead of clocking out at 6 p.m. They also moved the stands closer to the water, and the supervisors patrol the sand on ATVs and in trucks.

"More hours, more guards, more capability," he said.

The task force also considered signs warning swimmers against being in the water at sunrise and sunset, when sharks are more active. The Sandbridge attack, and another fatal attack in Avon, N.C., days later, both happened around 6 p.m. In the end, though, Brazle said the city didn't follow through with the signs.

"Our bigger focus was on the rip currents, and the drownings, and the lost children," he said. "The things that happen every day out here."