The two-year-old boy who was grabbed Tuesday night by an alligator near a Walt Disney World resort hotel is believed dead, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said Wednesday.
Demings noted that it has been 15 hours since the attack and rescue officials are trying to recover the body.
The boy’s family was at movie night outdoors at the Grand Floridian resort when around 9 p.m. the boy waded into about a foot of water in a lagoon, authorities have said.
Witnesses, including the boy’s horrified parents, tried to save him. His father jumped in and tried to pry the gator’s mouth open. His mother jumped in, too.
But it was too late. The child was dragged underwater in the Seven Seas Lagoon, witnesses told authorities.
The lagoon is connected to a series of canals that feed into large bodies of water, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Nick Wiley.
A search began for the boy immediately, with boats from Disney searching along with law enforcement.
By midmorning Wednesday, Disney had closed all beaches in its resort area “out of an abundance of caution” following the attack, a Disney representative said.
Wiley said the child was on the edge of the lagoon when the alligator attacked, according to the boy’s family. He cautioned that the investigation is still in an early stage and officials need to interview at least two other families who may have witnessed the attack.
Demings specifically said that the child was “wading … along the lake’s edge at the time that the alligator attacked.”
Parents rush into water to save son
The father suffered minor scratches on his hand trying to save his son.
“No Swimming” signs are posted at the Disney resort.
“The sad reality of it is it’s been several hours, and we’re not likely going to recover a live body,” Demings said.
He said there is no record of similar incidents in this particular area.
A handful of people witnessed the attack and supplied police with information.
Witnesses said the family was on the beach, and the boy’s sister was in a playpen about 20 to 30 yards from the water, according to Demings. The toddler was nearby, wading in the water.
There are “No Swimming” signs at the lagoon, and no one else was in the water at the time of the attack besides the child, Demings said.
Declan Salcido, who was vacationing at the resort with relatives from San Jose, California, said the “No Swimming” signs are visible “from any vantage point.”
The lagoon is not for recreational swimming.
“This is Florida, and it’s not uncommon for alligators to be in bodies of water,” Demings said.