UPDATE: Toddler snatched by alligator near Disney found dead
(AP) UPDATE -- Disney says it's doing what it can to help the family of a 2-year-old boy killed by an alligator yesterday. The toddler had been standing in shallow water at a Walt Disney World beach. The body was said to be intact. The site of the attack, at Seven Seas Lagoon, has no swimming signs but no warnings about alligators.
The family is from Omaha. The young boy was named Lane Graves. The Graves also have a 4-year-old daughter who was with them at the Seven Seas Lagoon when Lane was snatched.
(CNN) UPDATE: The 2-year-old boy who witnesses said was pulled by an alligator into a lagoon near a Walt Disney World hotel has been found dead, a source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Wednesday.
The 2-year-old boy who was grabbed Tuesday night by an alligator near a Walt Disney World resort hotel is believed dead, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said Wednesday. Demings noted that it has been 15 hours since the attack and rescue officials are trying to recover the body.
(NBC) A 2-year-old attacked by an alligator while on vacation with his family at a Disney resort is almost certainly dead, a Florida sheriff said Wednesday.
The toddler was playing in the water on a beach area near Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa at 9:16 p.m. Tuesday when the alligator snatched him and dragged him underwater in front of his horrified parents. The father tried to get his son back, but wasn't able to, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.
The hunt for the boy, initially a search-and-rescue operation, is now considered a recovery effort, Demings said Wednesday afternoon.
"It has been now about 15 hours since the child was taken into the water, so we know that we are working on recovering the body of the child at this point," he said at a press conference. "Our ultimate goal is to try to bring some closure to the family by recovering their loved one."
Eyewitnesses saw the boy pulled underwater Tuesday night, Demings said, adding "it's certainly not survivable" to be submerged for this many hours.
The family is visiting the Seven Seas Lagoon from Nebraska, according to Demings, and won't be identified until the boy's parents have the chance to personally notify relatives of their ordeal.
"I just happen to have a 2-year-old grandson, so for me, this is a very human experience that we are talking about, where we are dealing with this family now who there's no question will lose a 2-year-old child," he said.
More than 50 law enforcement officers have been searching the lake by boat and by air for the alligator, described as between four and seven feet long.
A trapper captured and euthanized at least five alligators, but none had shown evidence of being involved in the attack, said Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He told reporters it wasn't possible to examine the alligators without killing them first.
"They have to be euthanized to be analyzed," he said, adding that his agency has a "very good, close working relationship" with Disney to remove nuisance alligators.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott called both the sheriff and the Florida Fish and Wildlife director to get updates on the search effort, and officials said they have been in touch with Disney executives. Marine units are using sonar equipment to search the lake.
"It is somewhat of a complicated effort that we have going because this is a man-made body of water. It is a sizeable body of water and it has certain systems built in," Demings said.
Jeff Williamson, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Office, said Wednesday morning that there were signs warning people not to swim in the lagoon, although the signs didn't specify why swimming was prohibited.
"All we know is that [the boy] was on the edge of the water," Williamson said. "My understanding is that he wasn't swimming."
His family members alerted a nearby lifeguard after the attack, and authorities were called. The boy's parents then "diligently tried to get the child," Demings said.
Officials said the boy's parents were undergoing counseling. Disney was "doing everything they can do to make the family comfortable," Demings said.
Jacquee Wahler, vice president of Walt Disney World Resort, said: "Everyone here at the Walt Disney World Resort is devastated by this tragic accident. Our thoughts are with the family. We are helping the family and doing everything we can to assist law enforcement."
Disney closed all beaches, ferry boats, and marinas until further notice.
There have been at least 41 unprovoked "major" alligator attacks in Florida since 2010, according to the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission records. At least two deaths in 2015 were the result of alligator attacks.
A swimmer in Blue Spring State Park was killed in an attack in October, and a burglary suspect in Brevard County is believed to have been killed in November as he hid from police, according to the commission and the Brevard County Sheriff's Office.
Earlier this month, an alligator was seen carrying a dead man in its jaws in Lakeland, Florida, 60 miles southwest of Orlando, although it appeared the man had died before the alligator got a hold of him.
But alligator attacks at Disney are almost unheard of because the resort staff "have worked diligently to make sure their guests are not unduly exposed to the wildlife" that are indigenous to Florida, Demings said.
While Tuesday's attack is the first at the Seven Seas Lagoon, in 1986, an alligator grabbed an 8-year-old boy between its teeth at Walt Disney World's Fort Wilderness, according to the Orlando Sentinel archives. Paul Santamaria, of Bristol, New Hampshire, was able to escape with lacerations and puncture wounds after his 10-year-old brother beat the gator with his hands and his 12-year-old sister pulled him out.
The seven-foot-4-inch alligator then slipped back into the pond it had slithered out of, the Sentinel reported.