Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Body of Boy Snatched by Gator Found in Disney Lagoon

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Body of Boy Snatched by Gator Found in Disney Lagoon

Article excerpt

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. * The body of a 2-year-old Nebraska boy who was snatched off a Walt Disney World beach by an alligator and dragged underwater was recovered Wednesday, ending a ghastly search at one of the world's most popular tourist destinations.

Divers found the body of Lane Graves about 16 hours after authorities first got the call that a reptile had taken the boy from the water's edge at Seven Seas Lagoon despite his father's frantic attempt to save the child.

Sheriff Jerry Demings said it appeared the gator had pulled the child into deeper water and drowned him, leaving the body near the spot where he was last seen. An autopsy was planned.

"Of course the family was distraught, but also I believe somewhat relieved that his body was found intact," Demings said.

The boy's parents were identified as Matt and Melissa Graves of Elkhorn, Neb., near Omaha. A family friend released a statement on behalf of the couple thanking well-wishers for their "thoughts and hope-filled prayers."

CEO Michael Iaccarino of Infogroup, a marketing company where Matt Graves is chief data officer, said Graves' family "is the light of his life."

In a statement from Disney World Resort President George A. Kalogridis, the company said it was "doing what we can" to help the family. Disney World closed beaches around Seven Seas Lagoon during the search.

Though "no swimming" signs are posted at the beach where the boy was attacked, no signs warn about alligators.

Demings said his agency and state wildlife officials would look into the issue of warning signs. The sheriff said that investigators would also review whether the boy's parents should be charged, but it's not likely.

"There nothing in this case to indicate that there was anything extraordinary" in terms of neglect by the parents, Demings said.

'THIS IS JUST FREAKY'

Wildlife officials said the attack was a rarity in a state with a gator population estimated at 1 million. But it still spooked visitors in a city built on tourism.

"We have been to Yellowstone and encountered grizzly bears, but this is just freaky," said Minnesota tourist John Aho, who was staying at the park with his wife, Kim, and their son Johnny, 12. …

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