Gator drags toddler into lake at Disney’s Grand Floridian


We are sad to report a disturbing incident of a two-year old child who was dragged into the water of the Seven Seas Lagoon and to his death by an alligator. Sheriff Deputies and members of Florida Fish and Wildlife conducted a search and recovery effort for the child at the location near Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort’s water play area and eventually recovered the body the next afternoon. Updates to story are below.

June 16 updateDisney considers what action it should take in response to tragic death of child in gator attack along shore of Seven Seas Lagoon.

8:45pm Update
: While overseas at the opening of the Shanghai Disney Resort, Disney Chair and CEO Bob Iger still took the time to reach out and speak personally to the family that lost their child to a gator attack at Walt Disney World. After the call Iger issued the following 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.”

5:30pm Update: We’re hearing from official sources that the child’s body has been found. It was located in the water near building 9 at the Grand Floridian resort. That is the closest lodging building to the beach where the family was standing when the gator attack began. It sounds like the body was found close the initial attack. According to the Sheriff, the body was found mostly intact, which means that the cause of death was most likely drowning.

In a statement, George A. Kalogridis, the president of the Walt Disney World resort said, “there are no words to convey the profound sorry 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.”

12:15 Update: In an update at noon, Orange County Sheriff Demmings indicated the search is in its 15th hour and has shifted to a recovery effort to retrieve the child’s body. The focus now is on providing support and closure to the family who lost a child in this tragedy. They plan to continue searching until they find the body.

The Sheriff confirmed no similar gator attack has occurred in Disney’s 45-year operation in the area. Not sure if they know about the 1986 attack at Fort Wilderness.

10AM Update: The child has not yet been recovered.  Trappers have found and killed upwards of four gators to see if the  child’s remains could be found. Local gator experts don’t have much hope  at this time and say that multiple animals could have joined the first  gator after the attack. That said, the search around the Seven Seas  Lagoon is continuing this morning.

According to a Disney spokesperson,all beaches in the Walt Disney World resort area have been closed “out of an abundance of  caution” after an alligator attacked a 2-year-old boy on the Seven Seas Lagoon outside the Grand Floridian Resort Tuesday night.  (end update)

Update 1AM: A press conference was held at 1AM on Wednesday morning, where we learned the following:

At 9:21pm the OSCO received a 911 call that 2-year-old had been attacked by an alligator at the address of the Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World.

Currently, more than 50 active law enforcement personnel are searching for the gator and child. The Sheriff does not sound optimistic for a safe recovery. The area around the lake is closed and secured to aid with the search.

Chad Weber, Florida Fish and Wildlife, states they’re running a parallel search and recovery effort as well as an investigation into the incident. Part of the investigation will be to look into Disney’s procedures for animal control and public awareness.

The family of the child, a boy, was vacationing from Nebraska. They are staying at the Grand Floridian hotel and checked in on June 12th. Disney officials and Sheriff victim assistance officials are currently with the family

The family was relaxing on the sandy beach near the hotel and the child was nearby playing in shallow water when the attack occurred. The father entered the water to grab the child, but was not successful in separating the child from the animal. The mother also entered the water to help but was unable to rescue the child. The Alligator who took the toddler was described as 4 to 7 feet in length.

There are signs along the edge of the Seven Seas Lagoon that say ‘no swimming’ but none that warn of gators in the water.

“Everyone here at the Walt Disney World resort is devastated by this tragic accident. Our thoughts are with the family. We are helping the family and doing everything we can to assist law enforcement,” said a Disney spokesperson.

According the the Sheriff, Disney is cooperating with the investigation.

(end of update)

Morning Update: The child has not yet been recovered. Trappers have found and killed upwards of four gators to see if the child’s remains could be found. Local gator experts don’t have much hope at this time and say that multiple animals could have joined the first gator after the attack. That said, the search around the Seven Seas Lagoon is continuing this morning. The Walt Disney World Resort today closed all its resort beaches.   (end update)

Helicopters and lots of police were seen in the area while the Magic Kingdom fireworks went off in the background. Eventually hotel residents were asked to draw their curtains and stay off the balconies.

Police were seen stringing up police tape as they conducted their search:

Searchlights were brought in as well as boats:

The Seven Seas Lagoon is the man-made body of water created when Disney dredged the Florida swampland to create the dry land upon which they build the Magic Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom’s two monorail loops circle and passenger ferry boats traverse the lagoon to bring guests two and from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom and the adjacent resorts. There are three Disney resort hotels along the banks of the lagoon. The Contemporary and Polynesian opened in 1971 and the Grand Floridian was added in 1988.

Gator trappers have been spotted driving on to property tonight. It’s unknown if they were called by Orange County Sheriff Office or are just showing up to offer help.

Some have been asking about Disney’s policy for removing alligators from property. My understanding is that Disney does have a policy of catching gators that grow over 4 feet in length and removing them to an area near property known as Gator Alley. However, it’s not always easy to catch a gator that doesn’t want to be found and Walt Disney World is still pretty much smack dab in the middle of a swamp and gators love to hang out in swamps. So it is not unheard of for a large gator to come out of the woods onto the golf course that’s adjacent to the Grand Floridian Resort and even cross into Seven Seas Lagoon. I give Disney credit for their aggressive sweeps of property to roundup large gators. But it is impossible to track and catch them all.

This is literally a parent’s worst fear. I hope everything turns out for the best.

There have been a few previous gator encounters around the Disney World resort. In 1986 a 3rd grader was attacked by an alligator on the beach at Fort Wilderness, although the child was injured, those around him were able to successfully fight off the gator.

As of 9:40am on 6/15/2016 the child’s body had not been found. This is a developing story.

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64 thoughts on “Gator drags toddler into lake at Disney’s Grand Floridian

    1. Traci

      Let’s hope they don’t blame the parents! But with some of these activists, who knows?!

    2. Virginia

      Who would you suggest they blame? A tragic accident for sure, but signs indicating “no swimming” are typically there for a reason.

      1. Lisa

        Yes, that means it isn’t for swimming… doesn’t mean you can’t wade in the water…

    3. AJ

      Well, there are signs posted that say “No Swimming”. They aren’t there just for aesthetics.

    4. CalY

      Obviously it is tragic. But seriously? What level of idiot do you have to be to let your two-year old go wading into a Florida lagoon??

  1. Disney Mike

    Wow, this is unimaginably horrible. We’ve personally witnesses gators on the property — one INSIDE the Magic Kingdom (in the Rivers of America), and we have been told by Disney cast members that any gator found in a guest area will be removed from that area as soon as possible, even if it’s just a small one. The entire property is connected by waterways, though, so it’s quite easy for a gator to move around undetected.

    1. Traci

      I remember hearing about people seeing one there years ago. This story is so very sad. I just can’t imagine.

    2. Sherry Marcus

      We have seen small gators right there on the golf courses opposite the Grand Floridian. While this is a tragic incident and I can’t imagine what those parents are going through, a company as huge as Disney is not going to take any silly risks with millions of people’s lives and lawsuits NOT to have good animal control. But you can’t control everything, obviously there is a sign that says “no swimming” for a reason. Everyone in this country thinks they can do as they please and not follow rules and that’s when tragedy happens. I’ve seen to many horrible things happen lately that could’ve been avoided if people didn’t do as they please. So sad.

    3. Bob Teale

      Why were they on the beach at 9:30pm and NOT kerping a closer eye on their 2 Year Old? Its not like he knows what hes doing less able to read a sign that Says: No Swimming! Great parenting once again.

      1. Lea Grady

        The parents were right there! Nobody was swimming. It takes a second for an alligator to grab its prey. Way to be presumptuous and judgmental.

      2. Linda

        @Lea The toddler was wading in the shallow water. Yes the parents are at fault for letting that happen.

  2. Ava

    As parents e do nothing t expect these matters to happen to us – if we choose not to “have” our children at certain events due to protective measures of safe vs possibly sorry we are considered “overprotective” and get a deluge of percentages of walking or driving having the odds more high getting hurt or morbidly injured vs. going out on a beach activity & having your child dragged off by a reptile- I would and have always give for my gut – and if people want to judge me on being over protective then so be it! I cannot imagine what the family of this 2year old is going through -horrible , horrific, unfathomable.

  3. Brittany Cook

    This is ridiculous why would you let your toddler play in water where you know there maybe alligators and if you do why wouldn’t you be holding on to them the whole time and if there are no swimming signs up its for a reason I do believe that the parents should be help accountable for child neglect/ endangerment also I pray for them for the loss of there child

    1. Mark

      Why would people from Nebraska know there may be gators? Many resorts post that gators are possible, but NOT Disney. Sorry, but your rant is wrong.

      1. CalY

        I don’t know, maybe because it’s pretty common knowledge that Florida has alligators? It’s a swamp land… Sorry, but you would have to be literally dumb as a rock to not know that Florida has alligators. It’s like going to Africa and being shocked when you see a lion…

    2. Sheila Arevalos.

      It doesn’t matter where you are from, each state had different dangers, as a parent you have to be aware of them when you go on vacation to your destinations. Signs are up for a reason, they shouldn’t have to so exclpict that would be a sign that rolls across the lagoon. In the end, we should just be praying for the family ad their loss

      1. Ted Bratro

        You would expect your child to be safe cooling his feet in a Disney man-made lake. The signs were inadequate. There was a life guard there. He didn’t warn the parents. No sane person can fault the parents when the child was in their sight. What do you think they were on vacation for? To sit in their rooms?

  4. tina gray

    iam sorry to hear what happen to the little boy my pray are with the mom and dad they can not blame the mom and dad for this mom and dad will not for get about thus trip how they lost there little boy R.I.P FOR THIS LITTLE BOY GOD BLESSES YOU

  5. Jbarbieri

    I saw a gator sunning himself on Tom Sawyer island. When I asked about it, I was told that they are removed when they reach 4 feet in length. I also saw one in the water at Coronado springs.

  6. cassie

    I can only image the parents fear and my heart is breaking for them right now. This is supposed to be a magical moment for their family and its become a terrible tragedy . I hope Disney starts putting Gator warning signs next to the no swimming signs. It would probably help prevent people from letting their children swim in the water. Im sure vacationers dont even think about the possibilities of gators in the water.

  7. Traci

    My heart goes out to this family. I cant even begin to imagine their horror. My family is staying right next to The Floridan, at The Polynesian. It just makes me want them home. This is such a heartbreaking story. Prayers for the family, please.

  8. Jessica Smith Ragen

    Lake of parental supervision.. SIGNS POSTED !! Why are u allowing a child to wade at 9:00 at night..? Come on..sounds like a good way to collect..

      1. shayne

        The signs shouldn’t have to say why you shouldn’t swim there. I wouldn’t want to go into that water for the possible disease ridden bacteria that could be in there.

  9. Michelle Brown

    Terribly sorry for this tragic accident. Prayers for the family and for Disney. So very sad.

  10. chasity

    Prayers sent to this child’s family.. :(
    I couldn’t imagine, my heart is breaking.. Prayers for for strength for all the people involved in the search….
    I hope they are able to find this child

  11. Pam

    This is such a sad and tragic incident. There is NO fault on anyone’s part. This was a family enjoying a vacation and tragedy striking. Nature cannot be predicted. No blame no guilt. Just saddness and prayers. This family needs love and all the open arms that they can get. The gator was doing what gators do. They just don’t mix. Prayers and love to this poor mom and dad that tried to save their little boy.

  12. Jeremy Brewer

    There was a drone or a helicopter flying around the lagoon when i was leaving magic kingdom last night. It was a little after 11 when i left. While we were in the park about 10 was when i first noticed it. So they were putting a big effort in looking.

  13. Dan

    we go to Disney at least a few times a month. about 2 months ago I saw a gator in the pond with Tom Sawyer Island!

  14. Phyllis Samsel

    I cannot begin to imagine what this family is going thru. My prayers go out to the family…

  15. Chris

    It seems very un-disney-like to even allow access to an area where they are aware that gators are living, or even could be living. I don’t know much about florida, but here in CA, I have seen them go overboard with enforcing safety rules.

    1. Mark

      Un-Disney-like? Yeah right, that’s why they are building all the new bungalows in the Lagoon. Anyone care to stay in a room with gators swimming under you?

  16. Haley

    It’s ridiculous to think Disney can control the entire property and rid their waterways of all gators. This is Florida!! It’s absurd.
    Parents should not expect their children to be safe in any spectrum near water. If it’s wet, there’s danger (snakes, gators, drowning, etc)
    I think Disney should put up more signs warning of the dangers.

  17. TheeS.

    I feel so badly for the family and their loss. That little boy must have been so scared. :( playing in the lagoon, Especially at night :/
    I used to go to disney every year as a kid. One of those years (i was about 8 years old) I found an alligator in the water of splash mountain. My aunt and uncle notified personal right away and the alligator was removed asap.

  18. katherine

    Well Shay this is a lot different then the other ! This child didnt climb over anything or fall! Just playing by the water ,gators do come up out the water and snatch what ever is in front of them! I know this cuz they are all around where i live here in Florida! Praying for
    the family and so sorry for your loss.

  19. Diana

    10 years ago I was there with my grandson. We spotted a gator at frontier land laying by bridge it was at least 5 ft long we told front desk about it. Next day it was still there. They didn’t seem very concerned about it or it would have been taken care of the night we told them about it.

  20. Stacy Richardson

    This is terrible ,and my heart is breaking for these parents continued prayers for all..

  21. Barbara

    So sorry about this but really does people think there no gators at the resorts. I think in all fairness that the patents should be watching the children better they have been just my view .again sorry to hear about this .it is really horrible about this and sorry to hear about this 😥

  22. Nikki

    Sorry Shay, but the hotel is on a lagune in Florida where alligators live. It’s called alligator alley.
    The parents were on the beach at 9:30pm while their 2year old was playing in the water right by the sign that said NO SWIMMING! I am assuming, being from Georgia, the family knew how to read English.

  23. Cin

    This is so awful. That poor child, may he RIP. Once again I blame parental neglect. Signs were posted all along the waters edge “no swimming”. Disney is in no way responsible but I’m sure they will be sued because they have deep pockets.

  24. AvalonJohn

    This is devastating news, I can’t even imagine how this poor little boy’s parents are dealing with this.
    Our prayers go out to them from Northern VA.

  25. Becca Bingham

    Shay. . . in answer to your question, I do both. THERE WERE SIGNS POSTED THAT SAY NO SWIMMING. It’s fricken Florida, there are gators everywhere there. That place was built right in the middle of a gator’s natural habitat. Sad thing is, that’s how gators feed. They lie in wait at the edge of a swamp and when animals come to the water to drink, they stealth attack. If this animal is caught I hope they plan on relocating it and not killing it. If they don’t, then yes, of course I feel sorry for the animal. It’s a tragedy, do not get me wrong, but the saddest part is it was completely avoidable.

  26. Courtenay

    My family has walked along the shore at that beach many a time where the sand meets the water. I think that’s part of the appeal at staying at a “beach resort” at Disney – not to swim in a man-made lake but to be in that general area. I will now never interpret that sign as “no swimming” but don’t go anywhere near the water. Dozens of people often congregate near the waters edge to watch the water show and chat and I’ve seen multiple photo shoots taken with families standing in shallow water in this very place. I feel so sad for this family. The opportunity to take your family to the happiest place on earth and then lose a child is so tragic.

  27. Frank and sincere.

    Not the parents fault at all. We were just at the Grand Floridian this past Sunday. We saw the beach. It is unrealistic to believe a no swimming sign would keep any kid, much less a two year old, from going in the water. Where ever Disney has a display beach, it must have gator nets. Period. Disney, you need to immediately write a check to this family for 20 million. It won’t bring the child back, but it will be a genuine acknowledgement of your culpability in this case.

    1. Lisa

      My heart breaks for this family. If only 20 Million could restore this family. This is unimaginable.

      The parent’s weren’t at fault. A two year old splashing at the shoreline is not swimming. Disney failed to warn. There is no reasonable expectation that guests from around the world would be knowledgable of aligator habits and safety protocol. At a minimum, there should have been posted warnings about alligators….I guess that would cause parents of small children to vacation elsewhere….

      My prayers are with the Graves family.

  28. Amy S

    Frank and sincere – so all the signs that say don’t feed the animals at parks are there for design and any one attacked shld sue the park services? Camping and u get bit by a snake or spider and get sick/die sue Mother Nature? I’m sorry for the family but it was an avoidable accident. You are in Florida assume there are gators. If u are In the mountains you’d assume there cld be bears or mountains lions. It’s common sense.

  29. Maria Correa

    THE BOY WAS NOT SWIMMING. They were on the beach at 9 at night because Disney has a big screen on the beach so people can lay in the sand by the beach and watch movies. He was in the sand by the bank. Second, the lagoon was a man made body of water so gators are not expected to be in them. Third, the signs say no swimming and they also say because there are random drop offs in the water that are hard to see. They don’t want anyone getting hurt like that. THIS IS NOBODY’S FAULT. To everyone blaming the parents and Disney and calling them ignorant, you’re the ignorant ones. Do some research before you decide to post nasty comments. That poor family will never be the same and now they are having to read horrible comments like you idiots are posting. Think before you post.

  30. Northern Disney fan

    This is an unimaginable tragedy. As a parent, I could think of nothing worse than the loss of a child, especially one so young.
    I’m not a Florida resident, but I do recognize that gators are always a possibility in the waterways. I’ve seen on the Discovery Channel the speed that a gator or any predator can strike, but not everyone is as aware of this.

    I’m sure that the parents felt that allowing their son to paddle in the very shallow waters on the beach would have been harmless. “Its a beach, its Disney so it must be safe”. Sometimes, especially when a child is eager or overly excited, its easier to allow them the opportunity to explore, just a little bit. I may have allowed my son or daughter to do the same thing at that age, especially if they were so very anxious to try the water. I would assume that given the boy’s age, he was only in the shallows of the water and his mom or dad were right beside him.

    I can only imagine the shock and horror that swept over the parents when their little boy was taken from them in that flash. It could have been any one of us tourist-y types that come from out of state (or out of country in my case), whose child was splashing in the water. It could have been any one of our children.

    The parents are probably inconsolable right now. Let them mourn. Let’s not dump on them. We are all Disney fans (philes, family, whatever you’d like to call us), so in a sense we’ve lost one of our own.

    RIP little Lane.

  31. Eva

    I strongly recommend that Disney put up signs warning people of alligators. I’m from the mid west (have only visited Florida twice), and up until this story was published , was not aware that the resort had these types of creatures on their grounds. I would expect that as a visitor from a different part of the country I be notified of these types of dangers. There is a difference between wading in shallow water and swimming. And posting alligator warnings I’m sure would prevent many families from allowing their children to get anywhere near the waters edge.

    1. Elaine Harris

      Yes, this is a tragic accident but it could have been avoided by a few Alligator signs ! who’s to blame? no one wants to blame anyone. But should Disney not do Risk assessments before having families in areas of the resort. They need to take a long look at quality assurances and make sure their assessments have been done.

  32. Disneymom99

    Wow I am blown away by some of these comments! It was a tragic accident…no ones fault in my opinion! I have been coming to Disney for the past 20 years and honestly it never even crossed my mind that gators would be there! So swimming signs are great but no one thinks when you just put your feet in the water it’s actually swimming do they? Had the signs simply stated gators might be present maybe they wouldn’t have let the child go near the water?

  33. Kelly Lowe

    I’m in agreement with the comments that say…why would people from Nebraska know that gators would be nearby. I’m from and you should see what people do around bears! it’s because they don’t know what to do. A toddler wading in the water is NOT swimming. They get people there from all over the world. Trust me if those parents knew or read a sign that said gators in the water or nearby that kiddo would not of been in the water alone!

  34. jenny

    To those of you arguing the signs said NO Swimming, the two year old wasn’t swimming!! He was splashing! Do you think the parents would have allowed him anywhere near the water had the signs read ” No swimming, alligators may be present”? Of course not…that would hurt Disney’s brand! Get a clue people! Disney is responsible. They know the threat of alligators, which is why they have a team dedicated to patrol the area for them!

  35. Crystal Sue Sterling

    We humans need to have compassion in this incident. It could have happened to anyone unsuspecting. These people are from Nebraska most likely unknowledgeable about alligators. My prayers are with them because I know their heart is breaking over the loss of their child that they brought to enjoy a wonderful vacation that turned into a tragedy in a split second. We people need to have a little love and compassion because we could be walking in their shoes in a split second. We all want love and compassion in our tragedies. How about showing both love, compassion and respect for someone else whose pain must be great over this horrible incident where they lost their child. What is wrong with our society? Start with ourselves to give to someone love which is certainly what we would need and expect if we were walking in their shoes presently. How about changing America by starting with ourselves by praying for correct thinking personally starting today and continuing for the remainder of our lives. May love and peace come to these parents thru a loving God that I know is looking over them with compassion at this very moment. May someone take my message to this family because I am grieving with them over the loss of their son. God bless you in this time of your need for blessings of peace and it will eventually come to your family.

  36. Elaine Harris

    I hope Disney will now step up to the plate and put Gator warning signs next to the no swimming signs. HELLO I feel Disney is at fault here they knew their were Gators. I for one would no have had a clue their were dangers of Gators (I think they in the swamps not man made lakes)..Unfortunately now I know..
    If there was an Alligator sign up this would have prevented me as a Parent from allowing my child anywhere near the water. A no swimming sign would only alert me that it may be dangerous to swim. However, I would have allowed my child to sit with their feet in the water or paddle in it. Face it Kids LOVE water.. (This child was only paddling) by no means are the parents at fault here. Call me naive but I would never have thought of the possibilities of gators in the water at a Family friendly resort.

  37. Pingback: Disney World considering adding signs in response to gator attack | The Disney Blog

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