Body of toddler snatched by gator at Disney World recovered, Disney CEO responds

by: WFTV and The Palm Beach Post Updated:

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - 8:19 p.m. ET: Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Bob Iger has released a statement Wednesday in response to the news of the death of Lane Graves, who was killed in an alligator attack at Disney World's Seven Seas Lagoon, according to The Wrap. “As a parent and a grandparent, my heart goes out to the Graves family during this time of devastating loss. My thoughts and prayers are with them, and I know everyone at Disney joins me in offering our deepest sympathies,” he said.

4:28 p.m. ET: Executive director of Florida Fish and Wildlife Nick Wiley said his team will verify that they have found the alligator through forensics of the previously found gators. That process will include examining bite marks on the child. The team will also continue searching the water for any other alligators.

4:26 p.m. ET: Sheriff Jerry Demings with the Orange County Police Department said dive team members located the remains of the 2-year-old boy, identified as Lane Graves.  His remains were recovered at 3:30 p.m. and turned over to the Orange County Medical Examiner. His parents, Matthew and Melissa Graves of Elkhorn, Nebraska, were notified. A priest was with the parents when they were told the news. The boy's body was found completely intact.

3:00 p.m. ET: Sheriff Jerry Demings said the search operation is "somewhat complicated."
 
"It’s a manmade body of water and has certain systems built in to the waterway. My divers have been in the water today and at an appropriate time they may be back in the water. We have marine units out on the lake. They’re using sonar equipment as well.” He also noted that the resort has “never had this type of thing happen before” in its 45 years.
 
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Nick Whiley said the FWC has also called in a number of experienced trappers. “We’re still going as hard as we can. We’re still hopeful we’ll be able to help provide closure to the family.”
 
 
2:52 p.m. ET: Security at at the Grand Floridian Resort has been tightened. Only guests with confirmed reservations are being allowed on site. A pool close to the beach where the attack happened is closed. Staff members are patrolling the property as law enforcement scans the vast waters of the lake by boat and helicopter, according to Jennifer Brett with Atlanta Journal Constitution.
 
2:30 p.m. ET: The shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon, where a 2-year-old child and his family were when the alligator attacked, do have signs posted that warn no swimming is allowed. Law enforcement officials said Wednesday that they don’t have specifics regarding how big they are and where they are placed, but they did say they were at the location where the boy disappeared. Authorities were first alerted to the attack at 9:16 p.m., Orange County Sheriff’s officials reported. The boy’s father fought to retrieve his son without success. A lifeguard also rushed to the scene.
 
 

 

12:30 p.m. ET: Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said a fifth alligator was captured and killed as the search for a 2-year-old boy dragged from his family by an alligator turned into a recovery mission.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Deming confirmed at a 12 p.m. press conference that authorities had shifted their focus to search and recovery efforts.

"I just happen to happen to have a 2-year-old grandson and so, for me, this is a very human experience that we're talking about," he said. "We're dealing with this family now who, there's no question, will lose a 2-year-old child."

The fifth alligator searched by authorities did not appear to be the one that grabbed the child. Additional alligator trappers have been called in as more than 60 people search the property to find the alligator and the boy's body.

Nick Wiley, director of FWC, said Disney actively patrols its waterways and holds an open permit to catch and kill alligators that come on its property.

"It's been about 15 hours since the alligator took the child into the water," said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Deming at a 12 p.m. news conference. "We know that we working on recovering the body of the child at this point. ... Our ultimate goal is to bring some closure to the family by recovering their loved one."

11:15 a.m. ET: The Orange County Sheriffs Office is expected to hold a briefing at noon with updates regarding the search for the 2-year-old boy and the alligator that snatched him Tuesday night as he splashed his feet at the water’s edge.

Sheriff’s official say, “At this point, this is certainly a recovery effort to make sure the family has some closure once we can recover the body of the child."

About 60 people have been deployed to search the lake.

11 a.m. ET: Walt Disney World shut down beaches at all its resorts Wednesday as emergency crews continued to search for a 2-year-old boy who was attacked by an alligator Tuesday night.

A Disney spokesperson said the company is devastated by the incident and is doing all it can to support the family and assist authorities.

6:30 a.m. ET: The search continues for a 2-year-old boy who was grabbed by an alligator at the Seven Seas Lagoon near Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in Orlando.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said in a news conference Wednesday morning that the 2-year-old was believed to be playing near the foot of the water when the gator attacked. There was a lifeguard on duty but he was not able to get to the boy in time.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials said they have already pulled out and analyzed four alligators from the lagoon, but none were suspected to have dragged the boy underwater.

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"It’s very rare to be attacked by alligators in Florida,” said an FWC official

The Sheriff’s Office said that they are working with the FWC to bring in more personel for their search efforts.

“Right now, we’re just trying to find the young boy,” an Orange County Sheriff’s Office official said.

Divers, helicopter units and sonar boats will be brought to the lake today to search extensively in the dense, murky waters.

“I’m optimistic that we will have success in finding the child,” said an FWC official.

Read the previous story below:

PREVIOUS STORY: A toddler was dragged into the water by an alligator near Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.  

The 2-year-old boy was dragged into the Seven Seas Lagoon about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, authorities said.

“We have an excess of 50 law enforcement personnel who are out at the scene, two marine units out at the scene,” Sheriff Jerry Demings said during a news conference.

Demings said a 911 call around 9:16 p.m. reported that the child, a guest at the Disney hotel on vacation from Nebraska with his parents and two siblings, a 4-year-old and an 18-year-old, had been attacked by an alligator.

Demings said there was no security footage of the incident at this time, but witnesses have provided detailed descriptions of the incident. The family was out on the beach area at the lake’s edge, with the father watching nearby as the toddler played in around one foot of water.

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The alligator came up and attacked the child. Demings said the father struggled to try and get his son and was not successful, sustaining minor scratches to his hands in the effort.

The family, who arrived at the resort on June 12, alerted a nearby lifeguard who was in the area, but they were unable to rescue the child.

Authorities are unsure how large the alligator is, but witness reports range between four and seven feet in length.

Deputies are searching the waters for the toddler.

“As a father, as a grandfather, we’re going to hope for the best in these circumstances,” Demings said. “But based upon my 35 years of law enforcement experience, we know that we have some challenges ahead at this time.

“We’ll be out through the night continuing this search until we can have a successful resolution.”

Demings said there were signs posted around the lagoon that said the area was not for recreational swimming. There were no other people in the water at the time, he said.

FWC officer Chad Weber said his office was not aware of any recent alligator sightings in the man-made lake, which is bordered by three resorts in the Walt Disney World entertainment complex.

“We don’t have any reports, we haven’t checked in to see if we have any nuisance alligator reports in that area,” he said.

“We’re pulling extra resources and conducting a parallel investigation [with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office]. We’re putting every effort into locating the child and trapping the alligator; a trapper is on the water right now .

“We’ll be here with them til there’s a resolution.”

Walt Disney World director of communications Jacquee Wahler said everyone at the resort was “devastated by this tragic accident.”

Demings said Disney is cooperating fully with the investigation.

– For the latest on this developing story, visit WFTV or The Palm Beach Post.

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