The body of a 2-year-old boy has been found less then a day after he was snatched off the shores of Walt Disney World, in Orlando, Florida.
The toddler has been identified as Lane Graves of Elkhorn, Nebraska, and was playing in the shallows of a resort lagoon, Seven Seas Lagoon, when the alligator attack happened at around 9:00 p.m. Tuesday, according to 9News.
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The small boy was dragged underwater despite his father’s, Matt Graves, desperate attempt to save him. Mr. Graves fought the alligator, and suffered minor cuts to his arm and hand, but the animal and toddler disappeared underwater.
Jeff Williamson, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, hailed Mr. Graves’ efforts.
“The father did his best….He tried to rescue the child, however, to no avail.”
The toddler’s body was found whole inside an alligator, estimated to be between four and seven feet long, and this is some small comfort to Lane’s parents, Matt and Melissa Graves.
County Sheriff Jerry Demings spoke of the alligator attack at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.
“His body was completely intact… The body has now been turned over to the Orange County medical office for an autopsy,” Demings said.
“Of course, the family was distraught but also, I believe, somewhat relieved that we were able to find their son with his body intact.”
After 15 hours of searching, teams knew the boy would be dead, but crews, including divers, boat, and helicopter, refused to leave the area until he was found and worked late into the night, according to Fox News. The toddler’s body was found about 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Just In: Walt Disney World closes all beaches in its resort area after gator attacks boy in lagoon outside hotel https://t.co/LT5GawwqAi
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The alligator attack is the first such death in Walt Disney World’s 45-year history, but all Florida resort beaches and marinas are now closed out of precaution following the toddler’s death. Disney communications executive Jacquee Wahler made an announcement on Wednesday.
“Everyone here at the Walt Disney World Resort is devastated by this tragic accident…We are helping the family and doing everything we can to assist law enforcement,” she said.
Rescuers continued to use sonar and floodlights overnight, and firefighters stood on the water’s edge with infrared cameras scanning the water in a hope that the child had not been eaten. Five alligators were pulled from the water, killed, and analyzed for traces of the boy, including the one that held Lane’s body.
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Despite the lake where the toddler’s body was found being a man-made one, 14 feet in depth, it is connected to a natural lake and is known to have alligators. There were signs up around the lake prompting guests not to enter the water, according to the NZ Herald.
“Remember, it is Florida. And alligators are indigenous to this region of the country,” Demings said.
“Disney has a wildlife management system that is in place and they have worked diligently to ensure that their guests are not unduly exposed to the wildlife here in this area,” he added.
This system includes removing any alligators that have become “nuisance alligators,” or those that have lost their fear of humans.
Bill Wilson saw the incident from a balcony in the Grand Floridian and said the alligator attack happened in less than 30 seconds.
“I looked over and here comes one of the lifeguards. He said ‘Everybody get out of the water.’ The mother was there and she was frantic, running up and down looking,” Wilson said.
Tragic toddler's body recovered after alligator attack at Walt Disney Worldhttps://t.co/GWRozRwpGx
— The Daily Record (@Daily_Record) June 15, 2016
Alligators are rampant throughout Florida but are not known to often attack people. Lane Graves’ death is the 23rd unprovoked alligator death documented in Florida since 1948.
The death of the toddler has come just days after the Orlando nightclub massacre and the murder of singer Christina Grimmie. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said Wednesday that it has been an awful week for their community.
“The past three or four days have been horrendous for our community,” Jacobs said.
“I can’t comprehend, I can’t comprehend what any of this would be like as a parent,” said Jacobs, who has a 20-year-old son.
[Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP]