Body of 2-year-old boy snatched by alligator at Walt Disney World recovered

Thursday, June 16, 2016
Body of 2-year-old snatched by alligator at Walt Disney World found, Florida officials say
The body of 2-year-old Lane Graves was recovered by a dive team after he was dragged away by an alligator at Walt Disney World.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (KABC) -- A body believed to be that of a 2-year-old boy dragged away by an alligator was recovered by a dive team Wednesday, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.

Demings said the boy's body was located around 1:45 p.m. and was recovered at 3:30 p .m. The body was found completely intact, about 10 to 15 yards offshore and about six feet under water.

The sheriff identified the child as Lane Graves and the parents as Matt and Melissa Graves from Elkhorn, Nebraska. An autopsy would confirm the official cause of death, but authorities said it appeared the child was drowned by the alligator.

"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," Robert A. Iger, Disney chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

Some 50 people worked to find the body after the toddler was snatched away by an alligator Tuesday night.

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Law enforcement officials search the Seven Seas Lagoon outside the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa on Wednesday, June 15, 2016, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Demings said Disney has never had anything like this happen in 45 years of operations.

Around 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, the toddler was playing in about a foot of water on a beach area at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa when the gator locked its jaws around the child and pulled him under water.

The little boy's father ran into the water to try and pull his son from the alligator's mouth but was unsuccessful. He received cuts to one of his arms during the struggle. Witnesses said the alligator appeared to be between 4 and 7 feet long.

"There are no words to convey the profound sorrow we feel for the family and their unimaginable loss. We are devastated and heartbroken by this tragic accident and are doing what we can to help the family during this difficult time. On behalf of everyone at Disney, we offer our deepest sympathies," George A. Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement.

The incident happened in an area where "no swimming" signs are posted to warn people about bacteria in the water, but there are no signs indicating alligators could be in the area.

"There was a lifeguard that was on duty as well. The lifeguard, however, was not able to render much aid - too far away apparently," said Jeff Williamson with the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

MORE: Surviving a gator attack - "fight like hell," wildlife experts say

Sometime early Wednesday morning, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials captured five alligators that will be euthanized and examined. Nick Wiley, with FWC, said it is rare for an alligator to attack a person.

"We're either going to verify that we already captured that alligator through forensics work or we're going to continue to look for an alligator until we find the right one," Wiley said.

Disney World closed beaches at their resorts "in an abundance of caution."

Seven Seas Lagoon is a man-made lake that is stocked with fish and connects to Bay Lake, a natural lake in the area.

More than a million alligators live throughout Florida, though the species remains listed as an endangered species because it closely resembles the endangered American crocodile.

Alligators are opportunistic feeders that will eat what is readily available and easily overpowered. It's illegal to feed wild alligators because that causes them to lose their fear of humans. According to wildlife commission biologists, alligators seldom bite people for reasons other than food.

Wildlife commission statistics show Florida averages about seven serious unprovoked bites a year, and the frequency of these bites is rising. However, the likelihood of someone being seriously injured by an unprovoked alligator in Florida is roughly one in 2.4 million.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC7.