A sheriff said charges are unlikely against a Nebraska couple after an alligator killed their 2-year-old son by snatching him out of shallow water at a Walt Disney World beach, but the entertainment giant is reviewing whether to add gator warning signs.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings told The Associated Press after a news conference yesterday there was no indication Will and Melissa Graves of suburban Omaha, Nebraska, committed any crime that contributed to the reptile grabbing their son, Lane Graves.
“There’s nothing in this case to indicate that there was anything extraordinary” in terms of neglect by the parents, Demings said.
Demings said his department and the state wildlife agency would look into the issue of signs around Seven Seas Lagoon, where Disney had posted “no swimming” signs but no warnings about the presence of alligators. Searchers removed five of the reptiles from the water while looking for the child, who was attacked at a small beach area near nightfall Tuesday.
A Disney representative, speaking on condition of anonymity because the company had yet to prepare a formal statement, said Disney would “thoroughly review” the sign issue in the future. Beaches that were closed during the search remained off limits to visitors, the company said.
Divers found the child’s body about 16 hours after authorities first got the call that a reptile had taken the boy at Seven Seas Lagoon, which borders the Magic Kingdom theme park. The park is one of the world’s most popular tourist spots, drawing millions of visitors annually.
Demings said it appeared the gator drowned the child and left 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 told a news conference.
A family friend released a statement on behalf of the Graves 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 the family’s hometown of Elkhorn, Nebraska, friends and neighbors reacted with disbelief and shock.
The principal of their church parish described the Graves parents as caring and attentive parents.
“The St Patrick’s Parish and school community is just flat out devastated,” Norman Hale, principal of St Patrick’s Parish Catholic School, told Omaha station KMTV.
Wildlife officials said the attack was a rarity in a state with a gator population estimated at 1 million. But it still shocked visitors in a city built on tourism. (AP) AJR 06161611