WALT DISNEY WORLD, Fla. – The body of a 2-year-old boy who was dragged by an alligator into a lagoon at a Disney resort was recovered Wednesday, according to Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.
The alligator, estimated to be up to 7 feet long, snatched Lane Graves around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday in a sandy waterfront area outside the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa at Walt Disney World near the Seven Seas Lagoon.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office dive team located the body around 1:45 p.m. and recovered it intact about 2 hours later, Demings said. The body was about 15 yards offshore when it was found in the waterway, which is about 6 feet deep.
A formal identification by the medical examiner is pending.
“There’s no reason for us to believe that the body that was recovered was not that of Lane Graves,” Demings said.
[RAW VIDEO: Full news conference]
Demings said an autopsy will be performed to determine the official cause of death.
“There’s no question in my mind that the child was drowned by the alligator,” Demings said.
Demings said he and a Catholic priest relayed the news of the discovery to the boy’s parents, Matt and Melissa Graves, who were on vacation with their son and 4-year-old daughter from Elkhorn, Nebraska. They arrived at the resort Sunday, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.
“It was a tough message to deliver to them,” said Demings, adding that the family was distraught but somewhat relieved that their son’s body was intact so they can come to grips with his death.
Lane was wading in about a foot of water when the gator grabbed him, Demings said.
“The father actually went into the water to wrestle his son from the grips of the alligator,” Demings said.
Officials said the boy’s father suffered minor scratches on his hand but was unsuccessful in getting Lane back from the animal. Demings said Lane’s mother also went into the water, trying to find her child.
“It is tragic. It is heartbreaking. You know how a father must have felt. I cannot come to grips to what it must have been like,” Orange County sheriff’s spokesman Jeff Williamson said at an earlier news conference.
Disney announced Wednesday that it has closed beaches at nine of its resorts “out of an abundance of caution.”
There are no words to convey the profound sorrow 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,” said Walt Disney World Resort president George A. Kalogridis.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials removed five alligators from the lake and said that one of them may be the one that snatched Lane.
“We’re going to make certain that we have the alligator that was involved,” FWC Director Nick Wiley said.