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Disney World alligator attack: Body of snatched toddler Lane Graves recovered by police divers

The two-year-old from Nebraska was taken while wading on Tuesday night 

Andrew Buncombe
Buena Vista
Thursday 16 June 2016 02:19 BST
The body of Lane Graves was discovered by police divers on Wednesday afternoon
The body of Lane Graves was discovered by police divers on Wednesday afternoon (Facebook)

In the 45 years since the Walt Disney Company hacked into the Florida swamplands and built its famed resorts, it had never recorded an incident of an alligator attacking a human. That is, until this week.

On Tuesday night, Disney announced that a toddler had had snatched by a creature as he waded in water no more than two feet deep, his father trying in vain to save him. Then came the grim news that the 50-strong search team had recovered the body of the youngster, identified as Lane Graves. The boy had been on holiday with his parents Mike and Melissa, from Elkhorn, Nebraska. The boy's father suffered lacerations as he tried in vain to save his son.

“At around 1.45pm members of the Orange County Sheriff's Department’s dive team located what [were] believed to be the remains of the deceased two-year-old,” said Sheriff Jerry Demings. “At 3.30pm we recovered the remains from the water.”

Sheriff Jerry Demings (right) said he had broken the news to the parents in the presence of a Catholic priest (AP)

Mr Demings said that he had informed the couple of the news, with the help of a Catholic priest. he said while they had been distraught, they took some comfort from the recovery of their son's body, which was found intact. He said it meant that could proceed with a proper funeral, once medical staff had completed post-mortem tests to determine the cause of death.

He estimated that it was found 10-15 yards from the edge of the lagoon where the child had been wading on Tuesday night at the Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.

Police also said that the role of Disney was being investigated as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Meanwhile, Disney said it had closed the beaches on its resorts.

Reports said that “No swimming” signs were posted at the beach, but nothing warning people not to paddle or wade.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Demings had told reporters that officials were now assuming that the boy was dead. “There were eye witnesses who saw the child taken under the water,” he said. “It’s certainly not survivable at this point.”

Alligators are common throughout Florida (AFP)

Nick Wiley of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said witnesses estimated that the alligator was between four to seven feet long.

In addition to the police divers involved in the search, he had dispatched teams on boats to look for the animal and the missing child. He said officials had caught and killed five animals on Wednesday as part of its search for the child’s remains.

“We’re still going as hard as we can. We’re hoping we’ll be able to provide the family some sort of closure,” he added.

The state has a policy of killing any alligator that is more than four feet long and is deemed a nuisance. In 2014, 6,706 so-called “nuisance” alligators were killed.

The Associated Press said that while Florida had come the country’s third-most populous state, fatal alligator attacks remain rare. Since 1973, 23 people have been killed by wild alligators in Florida. Those fatalities were among 383 unprovoked bites not caused by someone handling or intentionally harassing an alligator.

It said that eight children, ages two to sixteen, were among the fatalities. Five died while swimming in lakes, rivers and canals. The youngest victims were killed near lakes, including a two-year-old girl.

The boy's father tried to save his son and suffered lacerations (Twitter)

On Wednesday, tourists seemed divided as to whether there was an ongoing threat.

At the Shades of Green golf resort, Jordan Sykes and his father, Vern, told The Independent he had seen a small alligator in a canal that very morning.

“I’ve never heard of an alligator attacking a human,” said the 15-year-old, who had just finished a round of golf with his father.

Minnesota tourist John Aho, who was staying at the resort where the child was taken, said he was concerned.

“We have been to Yellowstone and encountered grizzly bears, but this is just freaky,” Mr Aho, who was on holiday with his wife and and their 12-year-old son, told the AP.

Some visitors were surprised to learn the reptiles lived on the property.

“My question is why are there alligators in there,” said Michelle Stone, who lives near Detroit and was visiting Disney for ten days with her two children.

The Disney company did not immediately respond to inquiries. Mr Demings, the sheriff, said the company had a wildlife management system and has “worked diligently to ensure their guests are not unduly exposed to wildlife here in this area”.

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