A 2-year-old boy who was attacked and dragged into the water by an alligator on the shores of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Tuesday night was still missing early Wednesday morning.
Jeff Williamson with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said the child had not been located. Deputies are in the water and air, calling it a search and rescue operation.
“Right now we’re going to bring in some fresh eyes and continue with the search,” Williamson said. “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”
Teams searching for the toddler found four gators, but no sign of the child.
Orange County Sheriff’s deputies are using sonar today to search the man-made lake, with help from a helicopter and 10-person dive team, Williamson said.
Additional Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers will also be in boats searching.
Nick Wiley, executive director of FWC, said investigators aren’t giving up hope in their search, but the chances of a successful rescue fade the longer it goes on.
“Right now, all we’re doing is searching for a little boy to hopefully bring a family some closure,” Williamson said.
It’s unknown how many gators are in the Seven Seas Lagoon. Officials didn’t have the lake’s size, but said the search area is large and connects to other water ways.
Wiley said attacks such as this are “very rare,” especially with a toddler.
There was one fatal, unprovoked alligator attack in Florida in 2015 – the first since 2007, according to FWC.
“We just want to keep searching and searching and searching until we can’t search anymore,” Williamson said.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said Tuesday that rescue personnel had been actively looking for the child in the Seven Seas Lagoon for hours in a search and recovery effort but had not found him. They hoped to find him before daylight, he said. A dive team with sonar equipment was on standby — just part of a 50-person rescue team on the scene.
“As a father, as a grandfather, we’re going to hope for the best in these circumstances, but based on my 35 years of law enforcement experience, we know we have some challenges ahead of us,” Demings said.
Demings said the Nebraska family of five was relaxing on the shoreline when the alligator attacked the boy. The father entered the water and tried to pry the child from the gator, but was unsuccessful. He had scratches on his hands after the ordeal.
Parents then alerted a nearby lifeguard that an alligator had attacked the boy. Officials estimated it was between four and seven feet long.
The initial report came into officials at 9:16 p.m. Tuesday, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Rose Silva said.
Deputies closed off the area with crime-scene tape. Multiple emergency vehicles filled the front drive of the Victorian-style hotel and a helicopter hovered overhead. About 50 members of the Reedy Creek Fire Rescue, Orange County and the Florida Fish and Wildlife officials joined forces to search for the child and the alligator.
There are no signs warning of gators in the area, but there are notices posted against swimming in the man-made lake.
The Grand Floridian is an upscale luxury resort owned by Disney. It is one of three hotels on the monorail line, just one stop away from the Magic Kingdom Park.
Jacquee Wahler, External Communication Director at Walt Disney World Resort, said she was “devastated” by the event.
“Everyone here at the Walt Disney World Resort is devastated by this tragic accident. Our thoughts are with the family,” he said. “We are helping the family and doing everything we can to assist law enforcement.”
Hotel guest A.J. Jain and his wife traveled from Georgia to Disney for a conference.
“I’m just here to say a prayer,” he said. “I can’t imagine what those parents are going through. It’s been one tough week in Orlando.”
This is just the latest tragedy in the Orlando area within a week span.
Singer Christina Grimmie was killed after a concert at the Plaza Live Friday night. The gunman killed himself after shooting her.
Early Sunday, a gunman killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others at the Pulse nightclub. The gunman was killed by law enforcement as they raided the club.
“We are all doing our best to deal with all the situations that we have going on here, but our staff is very resilient. And tonight, they’re very focused on assisting this family.”