LOS ANGELES: The 2-year-old boy who was attacked by an alligator and dragged underwater near Disney World in Orlando on Tuesday has been found dead, authorities said Wednesday afternoon.
The child, who was identified as Lane Graves, was found — his body “completely intact” — around 10:45 a.m. PT not far from where he was grabbed, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.
“There is no reason for us to believe that the body that was recovered is not that of Lane Graves,” Demings said.
Demings said he believes the boy drowned.
“Of course, the autopsy has to confirm that, but there is likely no question in my mind that the child was drowned by the alligator,” Demings said.
“There’s no question they will lose a 2-year-old child,” Demings said during a press conference earlier on Wednesday. “It has been 15 hours since, we are working on recovering the body of the child at this point. The ultimate goal is to bring closure to the family.” Disney temporarily closed all resort beaches as a cautionary move on Wednesday morning in response to the alligator attack.
“As a parent and a grandparent, my heart goes out to the Graves family during this time of devastating loss,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement. “My thoughts and prayers are with them, and I know everyone at Disney joins me in offering our deepest sympathies.”
The Sheriff rejected the notion that Disney was to blame, saying the theme park “works diligently to ensure that their guests are not unduly exposed to wildlife here.” According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the child was playing in the Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa when he was attacked by the reptile, believed to be between 4 feet 7.
The child’s father rushed into the shallow water to wrestle the boy from the alligator, but was unsuccessful.
Officials quickly responded to the scene and taped off the area.
The victim’s family had traveled to Disney World on vacation from Elkhorn, Neb., with their three children, Demings told reporters outside the resort. The boy’s mother had also been nearby when the attack occurred around 9:15 p.m. PT Tuesday night.
Nearly 50 rescuers, including Wildlife Fish and Game officials, were still searching for the little boy as of 2:00 a.m. ET.
A visibly shaken spokesman for the Walt Disney Company also addressed the media: “Everyone here at the Walt Disney World Resort is devastated by this tragic accident,” she said.
The upscale resort is one of three hotels located near the monorail line near the Magic Kingdom Park.
One hotel guest told the Orlando Sentinel that he and his family were playing near the beach when the attack took place.
“I’m just here to say a prayer,” the guest said. “I can’t imagine what those parents are going through. It’s been one tough week in Orlando.” The man-made Seven Seas Lagoon is surrounded by a beach and several outdoor pools and bars.
A number of families were outside enjoying “Movie Night” at the resort during the brutal encounter.
“We’re going to hope for the best,” Demings told reporters, “but based upon my law enforcement experience we know we have some challenges ahead of us.” – Reuters