Walt Disney World Resort logoA 2-year-old boy from Nebraska was grabbed by an alligator close to a Walt Disney World resort hotel in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on Tuesday evening.

The boy is believed to be dead, according to Orange County Sheriff Jerry L. Demings in a Wednesday statement. When Demmings issued his statement, he emphasized the fact that the attack had occurred fifteen hours prior. Rescue efforts have switched to focusing on recovering the body.

According to authorities, the boy wandered into water that was around a foot deep in the Seven Seas Lagoon at approximately 9:00 p.m. while his family was watching a movie during an outdoor movie night at the Grand Floridian resort. The boy’s parents and witnesses attempted to save the boy. The boy’s father went in the water and tried to get the gator’s mouth open. The father sustained minor scratches on his hand when he attempted to rescue his son. The mother jumped in the water as well.

Tragically, the gator pulled the boy under the water according to what witnesses told authorities. Nick Wiley, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director, said that the Seven Seas Lagoon connects to multiple canals that flow into bigger bodies of water. According to Wiley, the boy was on the lagoon’s edge when the alligator grabbed him. Demings also said that the child was on the edge of the lake when the attack occurred. According to what witnesses told police, the boy’s family was on the beach approximately 20 to 30 yards away from the water. Witnesses also told police that the family’s daughter was in a playpen. Although the precise size of the alligator is not known, Demings estimated that it is from 4-7 feet in length.

Walt Disney World Resort vice president Jacquee Walter issued the following statement, “Everyone here at the Walt Disney 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.”

In addition to law enforcement, Disney boats assisted in the search for the boy. According to a representative for Disney, all of the beaches in the resort area of Disney were closed for safety reasons on Wednesday morning. According to Demings, there are no records of incidents similar to the alligator attack in the area, and there have not been any recent reports of problematic alligators in the area. Demings said that “No Swimming” signs are posted at the lagoon. He also said that no other people were in the water when the attack began. Demings said it’s usual for there to be alligators in bodies of water in Florida. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there was only one other severe attack by an alligator in 2016. In 2015, one person died and eight people were injured by alligators in unexpected attacks.

The Tioga Freedomist extends our thoughts and prayers to the boy’s family at this difficult time.

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