The heartbreaking story out of Disney World of the two-year-old child who was attacked by an alligator has come to a sad conclusion. At approximately 9:30 pm, Tuesday night a young boy vacationing with his family was grabbed and dragged into the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World. Search and rescue efforts have been underway since that time.
At approximately 9:30 pm Tuesday evening, an alligator grabbed hold of a two-year-old child on the beach of the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Grand Floridian Resort. The beach was sealed off while search and rescue efforts were made to find the child.
Authorities reported Wednesday afternoon that the incident was “not survivable” and the search effort had shifted to a recovery operation. Authorities further vowed they would not leave until the body of the boy was recovered. More than 50 wildlife experts including trained alligator trappers were involved in the search. That operation has now come to a close.
The body of the child has been found and recovered approximately 3:30 pm. The body was found fully intact and was found approximately 10 to 15 yards off shore in approximately six feet of water. According to Denning, while authorities will go through a formal identification process there is no reason to believe that this is not the missing child.
Florida Wildlife Commission has removed at 5 alligators from the lake and are investigating the forensic evidence to determine if one of those alligators was involved. FWC has promised they will continue searching until they have verified that the alligator involved is captured and removed.
The incident happened at the edge of the water in the area where movies are shown nightly on the beach. Witnesses said the father and the boy were wading at the edge of the water while other members of the family were about 20 to 30 yards from the water on the sand, according to Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.
Both father and mother entered the water to attempt to wrestle the child away from the alligator but were unsuccessful. Demings said the father was injured in the attack as well. The alligator is reported to be 7 to 8 feet in length.
The family was identified as Matt and Melissa Graves from Elk Horn, Nebraska. The 2-year-old was identified as Lane Graves. The family of five had been staying at the resort for several days. Sheriff Denning communicated a statement from the family who expressed their appreciation to authorities for their work and to others for their support and well wishes.
Disney World announced early Wednesday morning it was closing all beaches at all resorts out of an abundance of caution. They also closed all marinas and water transportation around the Magic Kingdom resort area. Additional bus transportation was added to accommodate guests visiting Magic Kingdom.
According to Florida Wildlife Commission, Disney World has a very proactive policy (which is standard in the central Florida area) of removing and relocating alligators over a certain size or animals that show any sort of aggression. Disney also warns people not to feed wildlife. One employee at the resort who did not want to be identified said in an email to the Orlando Sentinel, “There is such a problem on property with guests feeding the alligators thinking it’s cool.”
While alligators are abundant in Florida, attacks are rare. “We have not had any recent reports or complaints of nuisance gators in the area,” Demings said. There are “No Swimming” signs at the lagoon and no one else was in the water at the time of the attack besides the child, Demings said. This body of water is not for recreational swimming “likely for that very reason. This is Florida and it’s not uncommon for alligators to be in bodies of water,” Demings said.
Walt Disney World President George A. Kalogridis released the following statement Wednesday evening.
“There are no words to convey the profound sorrow we feel for the family and their unimaginable loss. We are devastated and heartbroken by this tragic accident and are doing what we can to help them during this difficult time.
On behalf of everyone at Disney, we offer them our deepest sympathy.”
George A. Kalogridis,
President, Walt Disney World Resort
This incident is the latest in a horrible week for Orlando with the murder of 22-year-old Voice Star Christina Grimmie who was shot outside a concert venue while signing autographs and the brutal attack at the Orlando nightclub, Pulse which resulted in the death of 49 people.
Please be careful around the water’s edge when visiting Florida. Alligators are abundant and are a threat to small children and pets. Alligators are in nearly all bodies of water in Florida (including at Disney World) and regularly travel from lake to lake.