Tuesday 27 September 2016

Walt Disney may add warnings to resort beaches after body of boy (2) killed by alligator recovered

The two-year-old from Nebraska was taken while wading on Tuesday night

Published 15/06/2016 | 21:38

The boy was identified as Lane Graves
The boy was identified as Lane Graves
Lane Graves of Elk Horn, Nebraska
In the shadow of the Magic Kingdom Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officers search for the body of a young boy
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission helicopter flies over the Seven Seas lagoon at Walt Disney World resort after an alligator dragged a two-year-old boy into the water in Orlando
Wildlife officials search the Seven Seas lagoon at Walt Disney World resort after an alligator dragged a two-year-old boy into the water in Orlando

Walt Disney World is considering adding alligator warnings to beaches on its Florida resorts after a two-year-old boy was snatched and killed.

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No Swimming signs are posted at the Seven Seas Lagoon where Lane Graves was grabbed from shallow water but there are no warnings about the presence of alligators.

A Disney representative, speaking on condition of anonymity because the company had yet to prepare a formal statement, said Disney would "thoroughly review" the sign issue in the future. Beaches that were closed during the search remained off limits to visitors, the company said.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said his department and the state wildlife agency would look into the issue of signs around Seven Seas Lagoon.

Wildlife officials search the Seven Seas lagoon at Walt Disney World resort after an alligator dragged a two-year-old boy into the water in Orlando
Wildlife officials search the Seven Seas lagoon at Walt Disney World resort after an alligator dragged a two-year-old boy into the water in Orlando

He told The Associated Press after a news conference on Wednesday it was unlikely the toddler's parents Will and Melissa Graves of Omaha, Nebraska, would face any charges.

"There's nothing in this case to indicate that there was anything extraordinary" in terms of neglect by the parents.

Divers found the child's body about 16 hours after authorities first got the call that a reptile had taken the boy from the man-made lagoon, which borders the Magic Kingdom theme park.

The park is one of the world's most popular tourist spots, drawing millions of visitors annually.

Mr Demings said it appeared the alligator drowned the child and left the body near the spot where he was last seen. An autopsy was planned.

"It was a tough message to deliver," Mr Demings told a news conference.

"Of course the family was distraught, but also I believe somewhat relieved that we were able to find their son ... so that they can come to grips with what has happened."

"Of course the family was distraught, but also I believe somewhat relieved that his body was found intact," Demings told a news conference.

A family friend released a statement on behalf of the Graves thanking well-wishers for their "thoughts and hope-filled prayers."

CEO Michael Iaccarino of Infogroup, a marketing company where Matt Graves is chief data officer, said his family "is the light of his life".

In the family's hometown of Elkhorn, Nebraska, friends and neighbors reacted with disbelief and shock.

The principal of their church parish described the Graves parents as caring and attentive parents.

"The St. Patrick's Parish and school community is just flat out devastated," Norman Hale, principal of St. Patrick's Parish Catholic School, told Omaha station KMTV.

Wildlife officials said the attack was a rarity in a state with an alligator population estimated at one million. But it still shocked visitors in a city built on tourism.

"It's the most magical place on Earth, supposedly," said Michelle Stone, a Detroit-area resident visiting Disney for 10 days with her two children. "To come here with your family and (be) having this great time ... There are no words."

In a statement from Disney World Resort President George A Kalogridis, the company said it was "doing what we can" to help the family.

Authorities said the boy waded into no more than 1 or 2 feet of water in the lagoon around nightfall Tuesday when he was taken from a small beach. The boy's father desperately tried to fight off the gator, suffering cuts on a hand, but he could not save his son. Neither could a nearby lifeguard, officials said.

Nick Wiley, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said witnesses estimated that the alligator was 4 feet to 7 feet long. One of the five alligators that searchers removed from the water may have been responsible for the attack, he said.

The beach where the reptile grabbed the child is part of the luxury Grand Floridian resort, across the lake from Magic Kingdom. The lake, which stretches over about 200 acres and reaches a depth of 14 feet, feeds into a series of canals that wind through the entire Disney property.

More than 50 law enforcement personnel searched the well-tended lagoon along with an alligator tracker and marine units equipped with sonar to search the lake's sandy, mostly flat bottom. The sheriff said a dive team found the child's remains.

Though Florida has grown to the nation's third-most populous state, fatal alligator attacks remain rare. Before the child's death, 23 people had been killed by wild alligators in Florida since 1973, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission statistics.

The grim news was only the latest for Orlando, a city struck by tragedy in the past few days.

On Sunday, a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, leaving 49 people dead in the worst mass shooting in modern US history. On Friday night, Christina Grimmie, 22, a contestant on season six of talent show The Voice, was fatally shot as she signed autographs after a show in Orlando.

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