Tragedy struck the Graves family visiting Orlando on Tuesday evening. The family of four from Elkhorn, Nebraska, had been enjoying a movie night at the Seven Seas Lagoon, where families roasted marshmallows and played along the beach. Lane Graves, aged 2, was wading in the lake, just feet from the “no swimming” sign, when an alligator grabbed him. Despite his father and mother each trying to save him, the alligator swept away the child. Search crews were sent out and eventually his body was recovered on Wednesday.
Everyone at Disney has given their sympathy to the family, but did Disney do enough to protect this child?
In fact, The Wrap, via Yahoo, reports that for over a year, Disney employees have “expressed anxiety” to management about visitors feeding the animals and urged them to place protective fences around the lagoon. At the new adjacent Disney property called The Bora Bora Bungalows, guests have been feeding the gators.
“Disney has known about the problem of guests feeding the alligators well-prior to the opening of the bungalows. With the opening of the bungalows, it brought the guests that much closer to wildlife. Or, the wildlife that much closer to the guests.”
The insider that they spoke to revealed that Disney was quite aware of the serious problem and yet did not do anything to protect guests — even to simply change the signage.
“Disney knew these alligators had become desensitized to humans, as they had begun to associate guests with food, and did not act in a proactive manner.”
The Daily Mail reports that right near the Disney Grand Floridian is the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. They share the same lagoon water, but for the past three years, their signage at the water’s edge offered a much more serious warning than “no swimming.” Their signage states the real danger in the water.
“Please be aware of the alligators in the lake.”
At the luxurious Grand Floridian property, the lifeguard on staff claimed that Lane Graves was wading about 10 feet from the shore of the man-made lake, according to People Magazine. The fact that a lifeguard was stationed there despite a “no swimming” sign placed in front of the lake is rather odd, although adjacent to the lake, there is a splash-pad water slide where kids play. The slide does not really require the services of a lifeguard, so should we assume that Disney had a lifeguard on staff because people did go into the lake? Or was the lifeguard there to prevent anyone from swimming in the lake? While there has not been an official report on whether anyone else was wading or swimming in the lake at the Grand Floridian, there is a question as to why the Disney lifeguard did not ask the family to take the child out of the lake.
There is also an assumption that as a Disney employee, the lifeguard would know that there have been alligators in this lake and this was a potentially dangerous situation for a young child. People reported that the executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Nick Wiley, stated that the Disney resort could manage any alligators on property, although he admitted that there was not one sighted in the days prior to the alligator attack and drowning death of Lane Graves.
“They have a full-time staff observing these waters and they have essentially an open permit system where any time they see an alligator or a complaint is called in, it can be taken out.”
Each day, travel agents all over the world send out thousands of families to Orlando to experience the four Disney parks. Most travel professionals recommend Disney proprieties for the convenience of being on the monorail line or next to the harbor for quick transportation to any of the four parks. In addition, there are special perks such as early admission to a park or a character breakfast that are offered only when staying on a Disney property.
So, is a family trip to Disney safe?
The Omaha World-Herald interviewed Travel Leaders Marketing Director Connie Miller about this tragedy and if there are safety issues at Disney. She advised that she had several clients currently staying at Disney and enjoying the parks, but warned that no matter where you roam, things can happen.
“No destination is 100 percent safe. People have to use care and common sense no matter where they travel.”
Do you think that Disney should have had alligator warning signs? Do you think this would have made a difference? Do you think a family trip to Disney is safe?
[Photo by Janette Pellegrini/Getty Images]