Two-year-old Lane Graves was building a sand castle at the edge of the lagoon at Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort when an alligator swam up to the shoreline and snatched the boy by the head, according to a new report on the toddler’s death.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report, which details the June tragedy in Orlando, says that boy’s father reached his hand inside the the seven-foot alligator’s mouth to try and wrench his son free. The boy was killed by the reptile’s bite and from drowning.
The findings describe the attack as “predatory,” and make clear neither the toddler nor his family did anything to provoke the animal — though it’s possible that the gator had enough exposure to people to embolden it to approach humans. It’s still unclear if other tourists, or anyone at the resort, had been feeding the creature.
Graves’s body was found 16 hours after the attack, but witness testimony describes the tragedy as it unfolded in real-time. A Disney lifeguard told police he saw an alligator “slashing around” about 20 feet from the shoreline, the boy’s shoes disappearing under the water. Others spotted the alligator lurking around the shallows earlier that day, including one woman visiting with her daughters who warned Disney employees about the gator approximately 45 minutes before the alligator grabbed the boy. Another tourist had taken a picture of the alligator from his hotel balcony nearly an hour and a half before the attack. He spotted the Graves family playing at the edge of the lagoon, and went out to warn the family. By the time he got down to the beach, the report says, “he heard Lane’s mother screaming.”
Disney has since added additional safety improvements to the lagoon after the boy’s death, including putting up additional warning signs and building a stone wall at the shoreline.