Alligator grabs toddler, drags him into lagoon at Disney hotel, police say

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida — An alligator grabbed a 2-year-old boy and dragged him into a lagoon at a Disney hotel near Orlando as his father desperately tried to save him.

Hours after the Tuesday night attack, the toddler was still missing despite a frantic overnight search to find him.

The child was “wading just in the water along the lake’s edge at the time that the alligator attacked,” Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.

An alligator snatched a 2-year-old boy Tuesday night in a lagoon at a Disney hotel near Orlando as his father desperately tried to save him.

An alligator snatched a 2-year-old boy Tuesday night in a lagoon at a Disney hotel near Orlando as his father desperately tried to save him.

Parents rush into water to save son

The family of four — parents, the boy and his 4-year-old sister — is on vacation from Nebraska, Demings said. They arrived Sunday.

They watched as the alligator attacked the toddler at the Seven Seas Lagoon.

“The father actually went into the water to wrestle his son from the grips of the alligator,” he said. The father suffered minor scratches on his hand, but was unsuccessful in getting his son back.

The mother also went into the water, trying to find her child, he said.

“The sad reality of it is it’s been several hours and we’re not likely going to recover a live body,” Demings said.

He said there is no record of similar incidents in this particular area.

“Everyone here at the Walt Disney Resort is devastated by this tragic accident,” said Jacquee Wahler, the vice president of the Walt Disney World Resort .

“Our thoughts are with the family. We are helping the family and doing everything we can to assist law enforcement.”

Demings said no reports of nuisance alligators have come in the region recently. The alligator is between 4 and 7 feet long, Demings said, adding he’s unsure of its exact size.

Baby pen was near water

The Reedy Creek Emergency Services call center first received a report about the attack at 9:16 p.m. ET.

The incident occurred on a sandy waterfront area outside the hotel near the Seven Seas Lagoon on the property.

Witnesses said the family was on the beach and the 4-year-old was in a play pen about 20 to 30 yards from the water on the sand, according to Demings. The toddler was wading in the water nearby.

There are “No Swimming” signs at the lagoon and no one else was in the water at the time of the attack besides the child, Demings said.

This body of water is not for recreational swimming “likely for that very reason,” the reason being alligators.

“This is Florida and it’s not uncommon for alligators to be in bodies of water,” he said.

Declan Salcido, who’s on vacation with relatives from San Jose, California, was coming back from the animal kingdom when the first ambulance arrived just after 9:15 p.m. ET.

He said there are many “No Swimming” signs near the lagoon visible “from any vantage point.”

The search

Authorities have searched for the child for hours and do not plan to stop until he is found or recovered.

Helicopters, sonar, marine units and an alligator trapper are being used in the rescue effort. Divers are on standby.

“We’re not leaving until we recover the child,” Demings said.

A handful of people witnessed the incident and supplied police with information. At least 10 emergency vehicles were on the scene, and the beach had been cordoned off.

Salcido said he saw seven or eight boats searching the waters, including two Disney security boats and pontoons owned by the company to take guests out on the water for fireworks.

When he first arrived, there was only one boat searching near the shore. But more boats rapidly came to assist and have now moved much further away, searching a “wider pattern.”

The Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife is conducting a parallel investigation and is participating in the search. It has deployed an alligator trapper, officer Chad Weber said.

“We’re putting every effort into locating the child and trapping this alligator,” he said. “We’ll be here with them until there’s a resolution.”

A witness told CNN a movie was being screened on the beach that evening.

However, Salcido said that the movie started earlier in the evening and would have been finished by the time the incident occurred.

A helicopter with a search light scoured the lagoon as a handful of Disney employees ushered people away from the sidewalks overlooking the beach.

The week

It has been a tragic week for the Orlando area. A gunman massacred 49 people at an Orlando gay club early Sunday in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

A day before the rampage, a man shot singer Christina Grimmie on Saturday as she was signing autographs following a concert.


  • Kk

    Shut the hell up!! What an ignorant thing to say!! I do believe there was just a mother who didn’t get charged for her child climbing into a gorilla exhibit who was “non- white as you put it!! Get off the racist crap!! This is heartbreaking no matter what color the child was!

    • Vicki

      Nope it doesn’t matter what color the child is you will blame the child anyway because animal. humpers think animals are more importanant than kids. And the mother at the zoo did not let her baby go in and play with a gorilla. She turned for a second and the kid was gone. Cut it out with that judging people

  • Sollosio

    Awful, authorities should go and shoot all the damn gators in that swamp. Whats wrong with the resort morons. I wouldn’t go to that humid rainy sticky overpriced mickey mouse operation if you paid me.

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  • melanie

    Maybe instead of “no swimming” signs they should have “beware of alligators” signs. A child touching the water or standing ankle deep does not constitute swimming. They have visitors from all areas of the world (and yes you should do your own research of the area you’re visiting for it’s native culture/animals/what have you beforehand), and Disney could have prevented this for people that are from areas without gators. I’m pretty sure these parents would not have let their child touch the water or be anywhere near it if the signs had said “beware of alligators.” I cannot even imagine the terror and fear of that poor child and his family during that frantic, tragic moment.

    • Clavin Hadley

      No swimming essentially means stay out of the water.

      Obviously there’s some sign of danger if they’re asking Pepe not to approach the waterway.

      As for a playpen nearby?
      For the 4yo girl…. Hmm….I could see if for the 2yo boy.

      Are they saying the 4yo was less cognizant than the 2yo and needed more shelter?

      We do this to our girls. “Oh this isn’t for girls. She won’t like this”……

      Would you let a 2yo play alone on railroad tracks?


    Awful for that family and others involved. A large lapse in normal thinking here.I find it hard to believe that Disney could allow gators to be in a man made pond with children everywhere on the shores. Everything in Disney is fake. Just amazing that this could happen!!

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