'Intact' Body of Toddler Recovered, Questions Raised About Safety At Disney Resorts After Gator Attack
The body of the 2-year-old boy snatched by an alligator at a Disney resort in Orlando has been recovered, authorities announced Wednesday.
The body of Lane Graves, who was visiting the resort with his family from Nebraska, was "completely intact" when it was found by a dive team Wednesday afternoon, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said at a press conference.
"At about 1:45 today, members of the Sheriff's Office dive team located what is believed to be the remains of the deceased 2-year-old," Demings said. "At about 3:30 today, we recovered the remains from the water, and that body has now been turned over to the Medical Examiner's office."
Police and a Roman Catholic priest delivered the heartbreaking news to the boy's parents, Matt and Melissa Graves, who were visiting the resort with Lane and their 4-year-old daughter from Elkhorn, Nebraska.
"The family was distraught, but also I believe, somewhat relieved that we were able to find the body of their son with his body intact," Demings said.
"I am absolutely stunned and heartbroken to learn of his family's unspeakable loss," said Anna Shymankski, a friend of the father, in an email to the Orlando Sentinel. "Matt's family is the light of his life and his family's anguish is our own."
Little Lane was standing in six to 12 inches of water at the Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa around 9 p.m. Tuesday when the 4- to 7-foot gator attacked him and dragged him into the water.
The reptile lunged in a matter of seconds, police said.
As the family grieved, questions arose about safety at Disney resort hotels surrounding the man-made lagoon, where gator sitings have been made in the past, according to local reports.
The water line is posted with 'No Swimming' signs, but there are no warnings about gators in the lagoon, the paper reported.
Grand Floridian janitor Mike Hamilton said he was so worried about gators swimming close to the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon, he told managers they should fence off the area, the paper reported Wednesday night.
Alfred Smith of Charleston, South Carolina, said he told a Grand Floridian employee Tuesday night about a gator he saw in the lagoon, the Sentinel said.
San Diego attorney David Hiden told the paper that he had to whisk his son to safety last year after an alligator approached the 8-year-old as he stood in calf-deep water at Disney's Coronado Springs.
"If I hadn't gone down there, in another two seconds my kid would have been killed," he said.
Disney officials say they monitor the resorts for alligators, but the sprawling amusement park and hotels, circled by marshes and canals, span more than 40 square miles.
"They're surrounded by (a) quintessential alligator habitat," conservationist and TV personality Jeff Corwin, who hosts "Ocean Mysteries," told the Sentinel. The show runs on ABC, which is owned by The Walt Disney Co.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, the park runs its own alligator abatement program, relying on private wranglers and staff to round up reptiles.
The paper quoted an unidentified employee as saying there is a problem with guests feeding the gators as if they were pets. Alligator experts say that is dangerous because the creatures then come to associate humans as sources of food.
Alligators have been spotted in the park itself, with a former Disney World raft operator telling the Sentinel that he once had to delay opening Tom Sawyer's Island because a family of gators had camped out on the raft.
A tourist posted this video of a gator she said she saw in a Walt Disney World parking lot:
Alligator casually walking over disney's parking lot😂🐊 pic.twitter.com/CNc1qz94cM— Marianna (@mary_r99) May 1, 2016
On Wednesday, the sheriff described how Matt Graves tried to save his little boy. "The father entered the water and tried to grab the child from the gator, but was not successful," he told reporters.
Dozens of officers from multiple rescue agencies swarmed the lake and used sonar technology to look for Lance after the family alerted a lifeguard about the attack.
Bill Wilson of Indiana said he watched from his hotel balcony and heard screams and splashing. "I thought someone got in a fight," he told the paper. "I looked over and here comes one of the lifeguards ... The mother was there and she was frantic, running up and down looking."
Wildlife workers have taken five alligators out of the lake to be euthanized and analyzed.
"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." Jacquee Wahler, vice president of Walt Disney World Resorts, said in a statement.