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 update – Disney 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:
Police putting up yellow tape outside of The Grand Floridian directly across from Magic Kingdom in Orlando… pic.twitter.com/yBQc3r4hcG
— Menardness (@Menardness) June 15, 2016
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.