The 2 year old boy who was said to have been attacked by an alligator near a Walt Disney World hotel has been found dead by the Orange County dive team, Sheriff Jerry Demings said at a Wednesday news conference.
The body of the boy, Lane Graves, was found intact at about 1:45 p.m., not far from where the boy was attacked by the alligator on Tuesday night, Demings said. His body had only a few puncture wounds, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
He likely drowned, Demings said. “Of course, the autopsy has to confirm that, but there is likely no question in my mind that the child was drowned by the alligator,” Demings said.
Demings said the body was found in 6 feet of murky water perhaps 10 to 15 yards from where the boy was attacked.
The boy’s parents, who are from Elkhorn, Nebraska, were identified as Matt and Melissa Graves.
“The Graves family appreciates the support they have received and have asked for privacy as they grieve the loss of their son,” the sheriff’s department said on its Twitter page.
Matt Graves is the chief data officer at Omaha Infogroup, a company that provides technology solutions.
Demings said the Graves were distraught yet relieved that this was not a protracted search.
He said he brought a priest with him when breaking the news to the parents, who are Catholic.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Nick Wiley said the alligator may have already been caught, but that has not yet been confirmed.
“We’re going to make certain that we have the alligator that was involved, and that we remove it from the lake,” he said.
Forensics teams will try to determine whether one of the alligators already taken from the lake is the one that dragged off the boy. If not, the search for alligators in the lake will continue.
The boy’s family was at a 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, Wiley said earlier.
The Reedy Creek emergency services call center first received a report about the attack at 9:16 p.m.
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” after 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 the child was “wading … along the lake’s edge at the time that the alligator attacked.”