Boy snatched by Florida gator found dead; Disney beaches close

Florida Fish and Wildlife search for a 2-year-old boy boy early Wednesday after the boy was dragged into the water Tuesday night by an alligator near Disney's upscale Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, June 15, 2016 | Photo by Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel (AP), St. George News

UPDATE (2:27 PM MDT) : The sheriff has announced the recovery of the 2-year-old boy’s body who was killed by an alligator at Disney World.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Walt Disney World closed beaches at its Florida resorts Wednesday while dozens of rescuers searched a lagoon for a 2-year-old boy who was presumed dead after being snatched off the shore and dragged underwater by an alligator.

Wildlife officials removed five alligators from the water and cut them open but found no sign of the child.

In the shadow of the Magic Kingdom Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officers search for the body of a young boy Wednesday after the boy was snatched off the shore and dragged underwater by an alligator Tuesday night at Grand Floridian Resort at Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, June 15, 2016 | Photo by Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel (AP), St. George News
In the shadow of the Magic Kingdom, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officers search for the body of a young boy Wednesday after the boy was snatched off the shore and dragged underwater by an alligator Tuesday night at Grand Floridian Resort at Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, June 15, 2016 | Photo by Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel (AP), St. George News

A Disney representative, speaking on condition of anonymity because the company had yet to prepare a formal statement, said the entertainment giant closed the beaches “out of an abundance of caution.”

Authorities planned to keep looking for the boy.

“We’re going to be here throughout,” Sheriff Jerry Demings said.

Wildlife officials said the attack was a rarity in a state with a gator population estimated at 1 million. But it still spooked visitors in a city built on tourism.

“We have been to Yellowstone and encountered grizzly bears, but this is just freaky,” said Minnesota tourist John Aho, who was staying at the park with his wife, Kim, and their 12-year-old son, Johnny.

Kim Aho said their son was “a little freaked out about the gator.”

The child had waded no more than 1 or 2 feet into the water of the Seven Seas Lagoon around nightfall Tuesday when he was taken from a small beach, authorities said. The Nebraska family of four was on vacation at a Disney World resort.

The boy’s father desperately tried to fight off the gator, suffering lacerations on a hand, but he could not save his son. Neither could a nearby lifeguard, officials said.

“No swimming” signs were posted at the beach, but the child was wading, not swimming, said Jeff Williamson, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Demings said there have been no other alligator attacks on the lake.

Some visitors were surprised to learn the reptiles lived on the property.

My question is why are there alligators in there?” said Michelle Stone, who lives near Detroit and was visiting Disney for 10 days with her two children.

A Disney spokeswoman did not immediately return a message seeking comment. The sheriff said the company has a wildlife management system and has “worked diligently to ensure their guests are not unduly exposed to wildlife here in this area.”

Nick Wiley with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said witnesses estimated that the alligator was 4 feet- to 7-feet long.

The beach where the reptile grabbed the child is part of the luxury Grand Floridian resort, across the lake from Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park. The man-made lake stretches over about 200 acres and reaches a depth of 14 feet. It feeds into a series of canals that wind through the entire Disney property.

More than 50 law enforcement personnel searched the well-tended lagoon along with an alligator tracker and marine units equipped with sonar to search the lake’s sandy, mostly flat bottom. Divers were standing by.

Though Florida has grown to the nation’s third-most populous state, fatal alligator attacks remain rare. Since 1973, 23 people have been killed by wild alligators in Florida, according to data compiled by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Those fatalities were among 383 unprovoked bites not caused by someone handling or intentionally harassing an alligator.

Eight children, ranging in age from 2 to 16, were among the fatalities. Five died while swimming in lakes, rivers and canals. The youngest victims were killed near lakes, including a 2-year-old girl who wandered 700 feet from her fenced backyard and a 3-year-old boy who left a roped-off swimming area in a county park to pick lily pads.

The grim news was only the latest for a city buffeted by tragedy in the past few days.

On Sunday, a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, leaving 49 people dead in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. On Friday night, Christina Grimmie, 22, a contestant on season six of “The Voice,” was fatally shot as she signed autographs after a show in Orlando.

Written by JAY REEVES and TERRANCE HARRIS, Associated Press

Associated Press writers Joshua Replogle in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and Freida Frisaro and Jennifer Kay in Miami contributed to this report.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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18 Comments

  • ladybugavenger June 15, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    So sad ?

    • .... June 15, 2016 at 6:26 pm

      It is sad I feel sorry for the family it’s going to be a tough road to go down. Hopefully they have family to help them get through this

  • ladybugavenger June 15, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    My heart breaks for the parents. I can’t imagine the trauma. I hope they don’t blame or hate God but instead draw nearer to God.

  • Bob June 15, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    well, that might be the end of gators in FL. They’ll have to kill several thousand to teach them a lesson.

    • ladybugavenger June 15, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      Kill ’em all

      • .... June 16, 2016 at 11:42 pm

        Ladybug. .I don’t think the tree hugging turtle people would let that happen !

    • 42214 June 15, 2016 at 4:54 pm

      They’re going to enact a 3 day waiting period before you can buy a gator

    • Henry June 15, 2016 at 6:10 pm

      Don’t worry Bob. There’s 5 million alligators in the southeastern U.S., including 1.25 million in Florida, so they aren’t going to become extinct anytime some.

  • ladybugavenger June 15, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Are there alligator signs there? Nothing can bring their son back but Disney should pay big $$$$ to this family

    • .... June 16, 2016 at 10:59 pm

      Ladybug. ..the only sign there is a no swimming sign.

    • ladybugavenger June 17, 2016 at 8:10 am

      That is certainly not the same warning as watch out for alligators! The boy wasn’t swimming but I guarantee they wouldn’t have been relaxing if there was an alligator warning sign.

  • Common Sense June 16, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Although I am sorry for this families terrible loss I cant help but point out and remind people. The alligators were here first. Everywhere you go there will be some natural animal like threat. You can not pretend it does not exist or can not happen to you.

  • DB June 16, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    To quote from the article…“Out of an abundance of caution.” This phrase has come to be known as ‘code’ for the phrase “Our lawyers have advised us…”

  • Bob June 16, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    i think it’s time to holocaust every gator in the whole world. then i can get my car seats covered in gator skin leather for cheap

    • ladybugavenger June 16, 2016 at 6:56 pm

      I’ll take some gator boots, and gator purse with matching gator wallet, and when someone calls me sensitive, I’ll put on my gator skin

    • .... June 16, 2016 at 11:03 pm

      Gators will be here LONG after your gone ! Ha Ha you lose

  • .... June 17, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Well the decision not to put up alligator warning signs was made by some RealLowlife

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