A 2-year-old boy is presumed dead after an alligator pulled the child into a nearby lagoon at Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa Tuesday night.
According to CNN.com, the toddler, on vacation with his parents and 4-year-old sister, was wading near the shore when the alligator attacked. The child’s father suffered minor scratches to his hand as he wrestled with the gator in an attempt to get his son back. At one point, the mother jumped in to retrieve the child too, the news site reports. Their efforts were unsuccessful.
Per CNN.com, a search for the young boy began and continued into early Wednesday morning, as Disney Parks announced that it would be closing all beaches in its resort area “out of an abundance of caution.”
“This is still a search and rescue operation,” said Jeff Williamson, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. “We are very hopeful. We are hoping for the best.”
After about 15 hours of frantic searching, however, authorities announced that the 2-year-old was most likely dead. According to Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, rescue officials are still working to locate the child’s body.
“The sad reality of it is it’s been several hours, and we’re not likely going to recover a live body,” Demings said.
The sheriff also confirmed that the “Seven Seas Lagoon” is not for recreational swimming and has “No Swimming” signs visibly posted in the area. There’s no signage alerting visitors to the presence of alligators, however.
“This is Florida, and it’s not uncommon for alligators to be in bodies of water,” Demings explained.
The Washington Post reports that authorities have since tracked and euthanized four alligators in the area. Wildlife officials say there’s no concrete evidence linking the euthanized gators to the tragic attack. They later investigated a fifth alligator, the publication reports.
According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Nick Wiley, two other families may have witnessed the alligator attack. They say a movie was being shown at the beach that night and the child’s family was in attendance. Onlookers told authorities the toddler was wading in less than a foot of water while his older sister played in a play pen about 20 to 30 yards from the shore. That’s when the child was snatched by the gator.
Sheriff Demings says authorities and staff at Walt Disney World are doing everything they can to comfort the child’s family during this very difficult time. Officials have not yet released the names of the child or his parents, the Washington Post reports.
“Everyone here at the Walt Disney World resort is devastated by this tragic accident,” Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said at a news conference. “We are helping the family and doing everything we can to assist law enforcement.”
Members of the public also took to social media to offer their condolences and sympathy to the family.
My heart goes out to them parents who lost their baby ?? I prayer they recover the body to give him a proper burial. #DisneyGatorAttack
— L|E|X|I|E ♡ L|O|V|E (@lexie_love7) June 15, 2016
It's supposed to be the happiest place on earth! My heart goes out to the parents of the boy who lost his life #disneygatorattack #disney
— Morgan YM (@gemini2smuve) June 15, 2016
My thoughts & prayers go out to the Nebraska family who lost their toddler. I can't imagine the pain. #DisneyGatorAttack #Orlando
— Alejandro Capote(AC) (@capotealejandro) June 15, 2016
Others were less sympathetic, criticizing the parents for their “negligence”.
#DisneyGatorAttack parents should have been watching first. Also can't blame an alligator for being itself. Prayers to the family!!!
— Jamie (@JamieZumstein) June 15, 2016
Such a tragic avoidable accident. Always check your environment, if I sign says no swimming don't go in the water at all. #DisneyGatorAttack
— jessie dev (@xxjessiee29) June 15, 2016
We're going to act like this wasn't child neglect too? Oh but ya'll were so out for the parents who son fell at the zoo #DisneyGatorAttack
— Who Gave You The Mic (@WhoGaveUTheMic) June 15, 2016
Tuesday night’s gator attack comes on the heels of a similar incident at the Cincinnati Zoo when a 3-year-old boy accidentally fell into a gorilla enclosure. The child made it out safely, however, as zoo officials made the tough decision to shoot the gorilla before it could harm the young boy.