Sheriff: Gator drowned boy, 2, at Disney beach; body recovered

Photo of Lane Graves from the Orange County Sheriff's Office

ORLANDO, Fla. (WFLA) — Authorities believe an alligator drowned a 2-year-old boy after taking the child as he stood in the water at a Disney resort beach on Tuesday evening.

Photo of Lane Graves from the Orange County Sheriff's Office
Photo of Lane Graves from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said on Wednesday afternoon that divers had recovered the body of Lane Graves, age 2, of Elkhorn, Nebraska.

“There’s likely no question in my mind that the child was drowned by the alligator,” said Demings during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

The sheriff said that the boy’s body was found intact in a murky, 6-ft-deep body of water about 10 yards out from the beach where he was standing.

The sheriff said that the boy’s body was intact. A Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission spokesperson said that bite marks would be compared to the five alligators that were removed from the lake during the search for the boy.

“There’s a good chance we have the alligator,” said Nick Wiley with the FWC.

The boy was vacationing in Orlando with his parents, Matt and Melissa Graves, and his 4-year-old sister. The family was in a sandy beach area at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort when the incident happened around 9 p.m.

Lane Graves is pictured here with his grandpa and sister. Photo via NBC News
Lane Graves is pictured here with his grandpa and sister. Photo via NBC News

“The father entered the water, and he tried to grab the child and was not successful in doing so. At some point I’m told the mother may have entered the water. So the parents diligently tried to get the child,” Sheriff Demings said previously.

“They alerted a nearby lifeguard there in the area as well. But they were unsuccessful in their efforts.”

“There’s signage that says no swimming,”Demings said on Wednesday afternoon. “Disney will look at all of their protocols and signage I’m sure, going forward.”

The sheriff said he and a Catholic priest broke the horrible news to Lane’s parents.

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

“It was a tough message to deliver to them to let them know their child is dead.”

The sheriff said he hoped the discovery helped bring some closure to the boy’s family. The sheriff also relayed a message to the public from the boy’s parents.

“They do appreciate all of the prayers.”

The family’s Elkhorn, Nebraska church community expressed sadness Wednesday.

“It is with a heavy heart that we write to you today to inform you of the tragic loss of one of our parish families,” said Father Gary Ostrand of St. Patrick’s Church.  “At this time, keep them in your prayers.”

Lane’s father Matt serves as a director for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. The chamber released a statement saying, in part:

“The loss of a child is a special kind of tragedy, particularly hard to comprehend. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the Graves family during this time of unthinkable sadness.”

Nick Wiley with FWC said on Wednesday that Disney has been in Orlando for 45 years and something like this has never happened. Wiley said that Disney has a wildlife management system in place to make sure guests are not unduly exposed to wildlife.

He said Disney is very pro-active when it comes to alligators. “Anytime they see an alligator, they can be taken out,” he said. “Disney does everything by the book. They have an amazing program.”

“This is a tragedy, it is terrible. But, it is a rare occurrence,” said Wiley.

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