ORLANDO (AFP) – The authorities in Florida searched a lake at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa early Wednesday (June 15) after an alligator snatched a two-year-old boy from the shore.
The mission was still considered a search and rescue operation even though the toddler had been missing since late Tuesday, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said at a sunrise news conference.
“We determined this two-year-old child was playing at the edge of the water, a foot (30cm) or so into the water, when this alligator came up and attacked the child,” he said.
“The father did his best. Tried to rescue the child, however, to no avail.”
The child belonged a family of five from the Midwestern state of Nebraska that was relaxing on the shore of a man-made lake at the upscale Disney resort hotel, Demings said.
The alligator emerged and snatched the boy around 9pm Tuesday local time.
The lake is part of a Disney complex that includes another hotel. Both are connected to the Magic Kingdom, one of four theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
“We have not been able to locate that child,” Demings said. “We will continue the search throughout the course of the evening.” “Multiple deputies” were at the site overnight, he added.
“More are coming this morning, fresh eyes to give another fresh look at the water. We’ll have deputies in the air as well.”
Rescuers used sonar and lit the area with bright lights overnight as a helicopter hovered overhead. Firefighters stood on the water’s edge with infrared cameras scanning the water for the child.
“We are very hopeful, hoping for the best,” Demings said. “Sometimes you get the worst, but we’re certainly hoping for the best.”
Alligators are common in Florida, where they can be found in bodies of fresh water across the state, Nick Wily from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service told reporters.
However, it is “very rare” for an alligator to attack a human, he said.
There was a no swimming sign at the lake, but no warning about alligators, Wily added.
“Everyone here at the Walt Disney World Resort is devastated by this tragic accident,” a Disney official said at an earlier news conference.