(ORLANDO, Fla.) — Following the discovery yesterday of the 2-year-old Nebraska boy who was dragged by an alligator into a lake near a Disney resort, his family “has asked for privacy as they grieve the lost of their son,” the Orange County Sheriff’s office said Wednesday.
Police released a photo of the boy Wednesday evening putting a face to the tragedy.
The body of the toddler, identified by authorities as Lane Graves was found about 10 to 15 yards from shore, according to Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.
The attack occurred around 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday when eyewitnesses saw an alligator grab the child, Demings said. No one else was in the water at the time.
“The father entered the water and tried to grab the child from the gator but was not successful,” he added.
Members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office dive team located the body around 1:45 p.m. and recovered it less than two hours later. The body has been turned over to the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy, Demings told reporters.
Demings informed the boy’s parents, Matt and Melissa Graves of Elkhorn, Nebraska, that their son’s body was found, calling it a “tough message to deliver.” A Catholic priest accompanied him to deliver the message, he said.
The family was “distraught but somewhat relieved” that authorities were able to locate their son with his body intact, Demings said.
George A. Kalogridis, the president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement, “There are no words to convey the profound sorrow we feel for the family and their unimaginable loss. We are devastated and heartbroken by this tragic accident and are doing what we can to help the family during this difficult time. On behalf of everyone at Disney, we offer our deepest sympathies.”
Robert A. Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, also said in a statement, “As a parent and a grandparent, my heart goes out to the Graves family during this time of devastating loss. My thoughts and prayers are with them, and I know everyone at Disney joins me in offering our deepest sympathies.”
Iger spoke to the family from Shanghai and Kalogridis immediately flew back to Orlando from Shanghai upon learning about the incident, a spokesman for Disney said.
The incident reported Tuesday night sparked a massive manhunt for the boy as dozens of rescue crews combed the lake with sonar equipment, while experienced alligator trappers were also brought in to help with the recovery effort, officials said.
Rescue teams were initially hopeful that they would find the boy alive. The search for the boy’s body in the Seven Seas Lagoon, an artificial lake on Disney property, lasted more than 16 hours.
The resort temporarily closed its beach areas and recreational marinas Wednesday in the wake of the gator attack.
There are no warning signs of gators in the area, but there are notices posted against swimming in the man-made lake. Disney will look into all issues concerning the signage, Wiley said.
Five alligators have been taken from the lake and euthanized, said Nick Wiley, the executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He said there is a “good chance” one of these alligators attacked the boy. Investigators will analyze teeth marks to make a determination.
Disney has a “very proactive program” of routinely removing alligators that pose a threat, Wiley said.
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