A two-year-old boy vacationing with his family at the Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa was dragged into the lagoon at the hotel by an alligator on Tuesday night, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The child is still missing early Wednesday morning.
According to witnesses, the tot was playing one to two feet into the water when an alligator grabbed the child. Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said rescue personnel had been searching the Seven Seas Lagoon for hours in an effort to recover the boy. They had hoped to find him before daylight.
“As a father, as a grandfather, we’re going to hope for the best in these circumstances, but based on my 35 years of law enforcement experience, we know we have some challenges ahead of us,” Demings said the child was “wading just in the water along the lake’s edge at the time that the alligator attacked.”
“The father actually went into the water to wrestle his son from the grips of the alligator.” The father who was unable to rescue his son received minor injuries. The mother also went into the water but she was unable to see the alligator or her two-year-old son. Life guards were notified of the attack immediately.
“The sad reality of it is it’s been several hours and we’re not likely going to recover a live body,” Demings said.
The Reedy Creek Emergency Services call center first received a report about the alligator attack at the Disney World Hotel at 9:16 p.m. ET, according to CNN.
Demings said there is no record of similar incidents in this particular area. Sheriff Demings said there are “No Swimming” signs at the hotel lagoon, and no one else was in the water at the time of the alligator attack besides the child. 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.
Officials estimate that the alligator is four to seven feet long.
Helicopters, sonar, marine units, and an alligator trapper are being used in the rescue and recovery effort at the Disney World hotel lagoon. Divers are on standby. Fifty rescuers are searching for the boy.
“We’re not leaving until we recover the child,” Demings said.
The Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife is also investigating the incident and participating in the search at the Disney World hotel. An alligator trapper has been called in to assist in the search.
“We’re putting every effort into locating the child and trapping this alligator,” Chad Weber said. “We’ll be here with them until there’s a resolution.”
“Everyone here at the Walt Disney Resort is devastated by this tragic accident,” Disney said. A Disney official said they were “devastated” by the event and that they are supporting the family in every way possible.
“We are all doing our best to deal with all the situations that we have going on here, but our staff is very resilient. And tonight, they’re very focused on assisting this family.”
A helicopter searched the hotel lagoon with a spotlight, hoping to find the alligator or the child, as Disney hotel employees ushered bystanders from the sidewalks.
A Georgia guest at the hotel, A.J. Jain said, “I’m just here to say a prayer. I can’t imagine what those parents are going through. It’s been one tough week in Orlando.”
As day breaks on the Disney World hotel, there is still no sign of the alligator or the boy. Rescuers promise to continue the effort.
The Grand Floridian is an upscale luxury resort owned by Disney.
[Photo by Susan Walsh/AP Images]