A United States family’s desperate search for their toddler son, who was snatched by an alligator off the shore of a lake at a Disney resort, ended Wednesday when divers found the two-year-old’s body in murky water.
The nightmare at the Disney World complex is the latest horror to hit the central Florida vacation town of Orlando reeling from Sunday’s massacre at a gay nightclub in which 49 people were killed the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
Walt Disney World said it has shut down all of its Florida resort beaches and marinas out of precaution after the incident – the first such death in its 45-year history.
The boy’s father tried frantically to save him after the attack Tuesday night at a lakeside beach at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, but could not pry the toddler from the gator’s grasp.
“His body was completely intact… The body has now been turned over to the Orange County medical office for an autopsy,” Sheriff Jerry Demings told reporters.
He said the toddler most likely drowned. The body was found just 10 or 15 yards (meters) from where he was taken, in murky water about six feet (1.8 meters) deep, the sheriff said.
The two-year-old victim was identified as Lane Graves of Elkhorn, Nebraska – a suburb of Omaha. His parents are Matt and Melissa Graves, Demings said.
“Of course, the family was distraught but also, I believe, somewhat relieved that we were able to find their son with his body intact,” Demings said.
The gator struck at around 9:00 pm Tuesday (0100 GMT Wednesday) as the child was playing in roughly a foot of water at the Seven Seas Lagoon outside the Grand Floridian, which is right across the lake from the Magic Kingdom.
The lagoon is man-made but connected to a natural lake. And alligators – common to Florida – can travel over land. Both help explain why there were gators in the body of water.
The boy’s father fought the alligator – estimated to be between four and seven feet (1.2-2.1 meters) long, according to reports – but the animal and child disappeared underwater, officials said.