The body of a 2-year-old boy snatched by an alligator in a lake at a Disney hotel has been recovered, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said Wednesday afternoon.
Demings said the body of Lane Graves was found completely in tact a short distance from the area from which he disappeared, in approximately six feet of water.
“There’s likely no question in my mind that the child was drowned by the alligator,” Demings said.
A dive team located the remains using sonar equipment at about 1:45, Demings said, and by 3:30 had recovered the remains. He said officials will go through the formal process of identifying the body and conducting an autopsy, but that there was no reason to believe it was not the child who had been seized by the alligator Tuesday night around 9:15 p.m.
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He had been playing by the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon near his parents and 4-year-old sister at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. “No swimming” signs were posted around the lagoon.
The alligator, estimated to be 4 feet to 7 feet long, emerged from the lake and grabbed the child, who was partially in the water, in its mouth. The boy’s father “entered the water and tried to grab the child” away from the alligator without success, then called a lifeguard when the animal dragged the boy into the lake, said Demings at a news conference earlier Wednesday.
The search effort included 50 officers, boats with sonar equipment, a dive team and an alligator trapper. Law enforcement had expressed hope that the child could be found alive, but as the day wore on Demings said there was “no question” that the 2-year-old boy dragged into a lake at a Disney hotel by an alligator Tuesday night was dead.
Walt Disney World closed all the beaches in its resort area Wednesday morning as the search dragged on “out of an abundance of caution,” a spokesperson for Disney said. The company said in an earlier statement it was “helping the family and doing everything we can to assist law enforcement.”
"Everyone here at the Walt Disney Resort is devastated by this tragic accident," said Jacquee Wahler, a Walt Disney World Resort vice president, according to CNN.
Authorities also began euthanizing alligators in the search for the boy, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials said. Investigators said they had killed five alligators while searching for the boy. Nick Wiley, executive director of the commission, said it will work to determine if any of the dead alligators we responsible for taking the boy. The search for additional animals will continue if such a determination cannot be made, he said.
The family, which is from Nebraska, had arrived in Florida on Sunday for vacation. Demings said there had been no previous attacks at the lagoon, nor any recent reports of “nuisance alligators” in the area.