A desperate search is underway for a 2-year-old boy who was snatched by an alligator while wading in a lake at a Disney World resort hotel Tuesday night, law enforcement officials said.
More than 50 officers from the Orange County Sheriff’s office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission are conducting the search in the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Grand Floridian Hotel outside Orlando, Fla., Sheriff Jerry Demings said in a news conference early Wednesday. Helicopters, two marine units, sonar equipment, a dive team and an alligator trapper are being employed in the hunt for the toddler in the darkened waters.
The boy was playing in about a foot of water in a beach area with his father when he was taken by an alligator that witnesses described as anywhere from four to seven feet in length.
“The father entered the water and he tried to grab the child, but was not successful in doing so,” Demings said. The mother rushed into the water to try and help the father rescue the boy. When the frantic couple was unable to pull their son to safety, they cried for help and a nearby lifeguard called 911.
The father received minor injuries to his hands as a result of his efforts.
The mother, father and their three children were staying at the resort while on vacation from Nebraska. They arrived Sunday, according to Demings.
The sheriff said he was “hopeful that we are able to locate the child in a reasonable period of time” but acknowledged there might not be a happy resolution to the search.
“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 that we have some challenges ahead of us at this time,” he said. “We’ll be out throughout the night — the morning if you will — continuing this search until we have a successful resolution for this family.”
Chad Weber from the Fish and Wildlife Commission said he was unaware of any reports of alligators in the area, but added that any such reports would be part of the investigation.
“We’re putting every effort forward,” Weber said.
“Everyone here at the Walt Disney World resort is devastated by this tragic accident,” Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said. “We are helping the family and doing everything we can to assist law enforcement.”
There are posted signs warning guests against swimming in the lake, according to Demings.
The terrifying alligator attack at one of the world’s favorite family vacation destinations comes as the Orlando area is still reeling from the mass shooting at a nightclub that claimed 49 lives Saturday and the fatal shooting of singer Christina Grimmie at a concert Friday.
“We’re doing our best to deal with all of the situations that we have going on here, but our staff is very resilient and tonight they are very focused on assisting this family,” Demings said.
“We’re not leaving until we recover the child,” he said.