The 2-year-old boy who was pulled by an alligator into a lagoon near a Walt Disney World hotel has been found dead. Divers located his body roughly 10-15 yards from where the attack initially occurred.
According to CNN, in a news conference Sheriff Jerry Demings confirmed that the Orange County diving team spotted the toddler’s intact body at around 1:45pm on Wednesday afternoon.
“It was a tough message to deliver to [the parents,] to let them know that at this point, their child is dead,” Demings said.
“Of course, the family was distraught but also I believe somewhat relieved that we were able to find their son … so they can come to grips with what has happened,” Demings said.
Dennings believes the 2-year-old drowned.
“Of course, the autopsy has to confirm that, but there is likely no question in my mind that the child was drowned by the alligator,” he said.
The toddler’s parents, Matt and Melissa Graves, are from Nebraska and were in Florida on vacation.
During the search, multiple alligators were killed, but Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Nick Wiley admitted that it’s unknown if they caught the one responsible for the young boy’s death.
“We’re going to make certain that we have the alligator that was involved, and that we remove it from the lake,” he said.
During a news conference, Demings also said there had been no previous attacks at the lagoon, nor any recent reports of “nuisance alligators” in the area.
The deadly attack occurred at 9:15pm on Tuesday night at the Seven Seas Lagoon while the toddler played near the shore and in the water with his parents and 4-year-old sister not too far away. Out of nowhere, the alligator, estimated to be 4 feet to 7 feet long, rose from the lake and grabbed the child, who was partially in the water, in its mouth, the Miami Herald reported. Both parents tried to save him, but it was too late.
It’s unclear if the resort is liable, however there were numerous “No swimming” signs around the body of water, the newspaper noted. As a result of the attack, Walt Disney World closed all the beaches in its resort area Wednesday morning. They also released the following statement.
While alligator attacks are extremely rare, Florida has had at least 41 unprovoked “major” alligator attacks since 2010 and this is the second gator attack death in the state since October of last year, National Geographic noted.
We send our deepest condolences to the Graves family.