A Nebraska family is facing what could be an unspeakable tragedy tonight after their 2-year-old son was attacked and dragged away by an alligator at a Walt Disney World resort in Florida on Tuesday night.
The mother and father, along with their three children, were relaxing on a sandy beach area, wading in about a foot of water along the edge of the Seven Seas Lagoon near the Grand Floridian Hotel, when the alligator attacked.
Sheriff Jerry Demings told reporters at a late-night press conference, “The father entered the water and tried to grab the child. He was not successful in doing so.” Demings added, “I’m told at some point the mother may have also entered the water. They diligently tried to get the child.”
He said there were no signs posted warning guests about alligators, however there were “No Swimming” signs posted in the area of the attack.
“We have in excess of 50 law enforcement officers on the scene who are searching the lake. We have two of our marine units on the lake to recover the child at this point. In addition, we’ll be working with the Fish and Wildlife Commission to continue these efforts for the next several hours,” he said.
Demings said that “as a father and grandfather, we’re going to hope for the best in these circumstances, but based upon my 35 years of law enforcement experience, we know we have some challenges at this time.”
Chad Weber, an officer with the Fish and Wildlife Commission, said his agency is conducting a parallel investigation. “Were putting every effort into finding this child and trapping this alligator.”
An alligator trapper is assisting with the search, and a dive team is on standby.
Sheriff Demings said Walt Disney World is fully cooperating with the investigation.
Jacquee Wahler, a vice president at Walt Disney World Resort, who appeared shaken, gave a brief statement to reporters: “Everyone here at the Walt Disney World Resorts 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.”
A reporter asked Sheriff Deming, “Do we basically know that you have a father who was basically trying to wrestle his two-year-old from an gator’s mouth? Is that what we’re hearing, or no?”
“That’s what you’re hearing,” Deming answered. “That would be an accurate depiction of what we are talking about.”
See next page for the most recent updates.
UPDATE 2:25 p.m.: Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings told reporters on Wednesday morning that the both is believed to be deceased. “We know that this is a recovery effort at this point.” He said that witnesses saw the child taken under the water by the alligator. “It certainly is not survivable at this point for him to have been submerged for this period of time.”
He said the recovery efforts have been hampered because they are searching in a sizeable manmade body of water with “systems” built into the waterway. “My divers have been in the water today and at an appropriate time they may be back in the water.” Marine units are also out on the lake using sonar equipment to try to locate the child’s body, Demings said.
UPDATE 4:17 pm.: CNN is reporting that the 2-year-old boy has been found dead. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the victim of this tragic attack.