Body of a two-year-old alligator victim found in Disney World lake

By on June 16, 2016

A dive team has recovered the body of a two-year-old boy who was dragged into a man-made lagoon at Walt Disney World in Florida by an alligator, authorities said.

The boy, Lane Graves, was snatched as he played at the edge of the lagoon on Tuesday night, despite his parents’ effort to save him, by an alligator believed to be between 1.2 and 2 metres long.

Members of the Orange County dive team recovered the remains about 3:30pm (local time) on Wednesday.

Orlando Sheriff Jerry Demings said the boy’s body was intact and had been sent for an autopsy.

“We will go through the formality of making a formal identification, but there’s no reason for us to believe that the body that was recovered is not that of Lane Graves,” he said.

The parents have been identified as Matt and Melissa Graves from Elk Horn, Nebraska.

“Of course, the family was distraught but also, I believe, somewhat relieved that we were able to find their son with his body intact,” Mr Demings said.

There are “no swimming” signs at the lagoon, but the alligator grabbed the boy while his family relaxed nearby on the shore, authorities said.

Wildlife officials captured and euthanased five alligators from the lagoon to examine them for traces of the child but found no evidence they were involved, said Nick Wiley, head of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“On behalf of our entire agency, we are terribly heartbroken at this outcome,” Mr Wiley said.

“Our investigation is still ongoing … we’re going to make certain that we have the alligator involved and that we remove it from the lake.”

The resort closed its beaches and recreational marinas on Wednesday as search teams worked the Seven Seas Lagoon, a man-made lake reaching about 4 metres in depth.

Father, mother tried to rescue son

The boy’s father rushed into the water after the alligator struck and fought to wrestle his child from its grasp, Jeff Williamson, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said earlier.

“The father did his best. He tried to rescue the child, however, to no avail,” he said.

The father suffered minor cuts on his arm in the struggle with the animal.

Authorities said the boy’s mother tried to rescue him too, and a lifeguard who was on duty by the lagoon also was unable to reach the toddler in time.

“The gator swam away with the child,” Mr Williamson said.

Bill Wilson, visiting from Indiana, saw the incident from the balcony of his room and said the attack unfolded in less than 30 seconds.

He said it first sounded like a fight had broken out.

“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,” Mr Wilson told the Orlando Sentinel.

He said Disney staff and first responders reacted quickly.

The Walt Disney Company’s CEO Robert Iger offered the boy’s family his sympathies.

“As a parent and a grandparent, my heart goes out to the Graves family during this time of devastating loss,” he said.

“My thoughts and prayers are with them, and I know everyone at Disney joins me in offering our deepest sympathies.”

Alligators are not uncommon in the Seven Seas Lagoon, said Nick Wiley from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

He said they work with the resort to remove “nuisance alligators” when they are reported.

Orlando Sheriff Mr Demings said Disney had operated in the area for 45 years and had never had this type of incident occur before.

“We know this is Florida and alligators are indigenous to this region,” he 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.”

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