Posted: September 13, 2018
By Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
The Nebraska couple who lost their 2-year-old son in an alligator attack at Walt Disney World have welcomed a new baby boy into their family.
Matt and Melissa Graves announced the birth of Christian Lane Graves on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.
Lane Graves was killed in 2016 when an alligator dragged the boy into Seven Seas Lagoon at the resort.
The toddler from Nebraska was on vacation with his parents and siblings when he was at the lake’s edge in about one foot of water at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Matt Graves tried to pull his son from the clutches of the gator but was not able to rescue the boy.
His body was found about 15 yards from the shore, six feet underwater, the day after the attack, it was reported at the time. The Orange County Sheriff's Office said about 60 people were searching the lake after the attack.
“We are happy to announce the birth of our son, Christian Lane Graves. Although we know the pain of losing Lane will never go away, we feel God has blessed our family with this precious miracle of life,” Matt and Melissa Graves wrote in a press release, the “Today” show reported.
They said Lane is Christian’s guardian angel.
The family started The Lane Thomas Foundation after their son’s death to help families whose children are awaiting organ donations.
Orange County Sheriff's Office
Orange County Sheriff's Office
The father of a 2-year-old boy killed by an alligator at Walt Disney World last month told authorities that two gators were involved in the attack, the Orlando Sentinel reported Sunday.
The second gator attacked Matt Graves as he tried to keep the first gator from pulling 2-year-old Lane Graves into the Seven Seas Lagoon near the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, according to records made public by the Reedy Creek Fire Department, which serves Disney World.
The Nebraska boy’s body was found about 15 yards from the shore, 6 feet underwater, the Sentinel reported.
A Reedy Creek fire captain said the second gator’s teeth had cut the elder Graves and that he would need stitches and antibiotics following the June 15 attack.
A June 16 search found five alligators in the lagoon. All were killed. Disney World since has posted signs warning guests of alligators and snakes near its lakefronts, the Sentinel said.
Alligator trapping will no longer take place in the Seven Seas Lagoon, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
FWC captured and killed at six alligators at the Disney resort after Lane Graves, a 2-year-old boy from Nebraska, was snatched by a gator June 14.
The boy and his family were along the shoreline of the beach at the Seven Seas Lagoon.
FWC said it was "confident" that the alligator responsible for the attack has been removed. This conclusion is based on expert analysis and observations by staff with extensive experience in investigating fatal alligator bite incidents. It took into account the proximity to the attack site of removed alligators and witness descriptions, FWC officials said.
“There are no words to describe the profound sadness we feel for the family of Lane Graves,” said Nick Wiley, executive director of the FWC. “We will continue to keep this family close to our hearts as they deal with the pain and grief of the loss of Lane.”
Graves was laid to rest on Tuesday.
Last week, Disney installed fences along all its beaches and put up signs that warned alligators could be in the water.
Here is what FWC concluded during its investigation:
Jennifer Brett contributed to this report.
8:19 p.m. ET: Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Bob Iger has released a statement Wednesday in response to the news of the death of Lane Graves, who was killed in an alligator attack at Disney World's Seven Seas Lagoon, according to The Wrap. “As a parent and a grandparent, my heart goes out to the Graves family during this time of devastating loss. My thoughts and prayers are with them, and I know everyone at Disney joins me in offering our deepest sympathies,” he said.
4:28 p.m. ET: Executive director of Florida Fish and Wildlife Nick Wiley said his team will verify that they have found the alligator through forensics of the previously found gators. That process will include examining bite marks on the child. The team will also continue searching the water for any other alligators.
4:26 p.m. ET: Sheriff Jerry Demings with the Orange County Police Department said dive team members located the remains of the 2-year-old boy, identified as Lane Graves. His remains were recovered at 3:30 p.m. and turned over to the Orange County Medical Examiner. His parents, Matthew and Melissa Graves of Elkhorn, Nebraska, were notified. A priest was with the parents when they were told the news. The boy's body was found completely in tact.
4 p.m. ET: The body of the child has been found, according to the Palm Beach Post, citing CNN. A media briefing on the matter is expected to begin shortly.
3:53 p.m. ET: New information is expected at a 4 p.m. news conference.
3 p.m. ET: Sheriff Jerry Demings said the search operation is "somewhat complicated."
"It’s a manmade body of water and has certain systems built in to the waterway. My divers have been in the water today and at an appropriate time they may be back in the water. We have marine units out on the lake. They’re using sonar equipment as well.” He also noted that the resort has “never had this type of thing happen before” in its 45 years.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Nick Wiley said the FWC has also called in a number of experienced trappers. “We’re still going as hard as we can. We’re still hopeful we’ll be able to help provide closure to the family.”
2:52 p.m. ET: Security at at the Grand Floridian Resort has been tightened. Only guests with confirmed reservations are being allowed on site. A pool close to the beach where the attack happened is closed. Staff members are patrolling the property as law enforcement scans the vast waters of the lake by boat and helicopter, according to Jennifer Brett with Atlanta Journal Constitution.
2:30 p.m. ET: The shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon, where a 2-year-old child and his family were when the alligator attacked, do have signs posted that warn no swimming is allowed. Law enforcement officials said Wednesday that they don’t have specifics regarding how big they are and where they are placed, but they did say they were at the location where the boy disappeared. Authorities were first alerted to the attack at 9:16 p.m., Orange County Sheriff’s officials reported. The boy’s father fought to retrieve his son without success. A lifeguard also rushed to the scene.
12:30 p.m. ET: Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said a fifth alligator was captured and killed as the search for a 2-year-old boy dragged from his family by an alligator turned into a recovery mission.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Deming confirmed at a 12 p.m. press conference that authorities had shifted their focus to search and recovery efforts.
"I just happen to happen to have a 2-year-old grandson and so, for me, this is a very human experience that we're talking about," he said. "We're dealing with this family now who, there's no question, will lose a 2-year-old child."
The fifth alligator searched by authorities did not appear to be the one that grabbed the child. Additional alligator trappers have been called in as more than 60 people search the property to find the alligator and the boy's body.
Nick Wiley, director of FWC, said Disney actively patrols its waterways and holds an open permit to catch and kill alligators that come on its property.
"It's been about 15 hours since the alligator took the child into the water," said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Deming at a 12 p.m. news conference. "We know that we working on recovering the body of the child at this point. ... Our ultimate goal is to bring some closure to the family by recovering their loved one."
11:15 a.m. ET: The Orange County Sheriffs Office is expected to hold a briefing at noon with updates regarding the search for the 2-year-old boy and the alligator that snatched him Tuesday night as he splashed his feet at the water’s edge.
Sheriff’s official say, “At this point, this is certainly a recovery effort to make sure the family has some closure once we can recover the body of the child."
About 60 people have been deployed to search the lake.
11 a.m. ET: Walt Disney World shut down beaches at all its resorts Wednesday as emergency crews continued to search for a 2-year-old boy who was attacked by an alligator Tuesday night.
A Disney spokesperson said the company is devastated by the incident and is doing all it can to support the family and assist authorities.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said in a news conference Wednesday morning that the 2-year-old was believed to be playing near the foot of the water when the gator attacked. There was a lifeguard on duty but he was not able to get to the boy in time.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials said they have already pulled out and analyzed four alligators from the lagoon, but none were suspected to have dragged the boy underwater.
“It’s very rare to be attacked by alligators in Florida,” said an FWC official
The Sheriff’s Office said that they are working with the FWC to bring in more personel for their search efforts.
“Right now, we’re just trying to find the young boy,” an Orange County Sheriff’s Office official said.
Divers, helicopter units and sonar boats will be brought to the lake today to search extensively in the dense, murky waters.
“I’m optimistic that we will have success in finding the child,” said an FWC official.
Read the previous story below:
PREVIOUS STORY: A toddler was dragged into the water by an alligator near Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
The 2-year-old boy was dragged into the Seven Seas Lagoon about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, authorities said.
“We have an excess of 50 law enforcement personnel who are out at the scene, two marine units out at the scene,” Sheriff Jerry Demings said during a news conference.
Demings said a 911 call around 9:16 p.m. reported that the child, a guest at the Disney hotel on vacation from Nebraska with his parents and two siblings, a 4-year-old and an 18-year-old, had been attacked by an alligator.
Demings said there was no security footage of the incident at this time, but witnesses have provided detailed descriptions of the incident. The family was out on the beach area at the lake’s edge, with the father watching nearby as the toddler played in around one foot of water.
The alligator came up and attacked the child. Demings said the father struggled to try and get his son and was not successful, sustaining minor scratches to his hands in the effort.
The family, who arrived at the resort on June 12, alerted a nearby lifeguard who was in the area, but they were unable to rescue the child.
Authorities are unsure how large the alligator is, but witness reports range between four and seven feet in length.
Deputies are searching the waters for the toddler.
“As a father, as a grandfather, we’re going to hope for the best in these circumstances,” Demings said. “But based upon my 35 years of law enforcement experience, we know that we have some challenges ahead at this time.
“We’ll be out through the night continuing this search until we can have a successful resolution.”
Demings said there were signs posted around the lagoon that said the area was not for recreational swimming. There were no other people in the water at the time, he said.
FWC officer Chad Weber said his office was not aware of any recent alligator sightings in the man-made lake, which is bordered by three resorts in the Walt Disney World entertainment complex.
“We don’t have any reports, we haven’t checked in to see if we have any nuisance alligator reports in that area,” he said.
“We’re pulling extra resources and conducting a parallel investigation [with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office]. We’re putting every effort into locating the child and trapping the alligator; a trapper is on the water right now .
“We’ll be here with them til there’s a resolution.”
Walt Disney World director of communications Jacquee Wahler said everyone at the resort was “devastated by this tragic accident.”
Demings said Disney is cooperating fully with the investigation.
<iframe src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/deputies-toddler-dragged-into-water-by-gator-near-/embed?header=none&border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/deputies-toddler-dragged-into-water-by-gator-near-.js?header=none&border=false"></script>[View the story "Deputies: Toddler dragged into water by gator near Disney's Grand Floridian" on Storify]
Family and friends came together on Monday morning to say goodbye to 2-year-old Lane Graves, the toddler who was killed by an alligator at Seven Seas Lagoon at a Disney World Resort on June 14.
“Melissa and I again want to express our gratitude to our family, friends and community for the love and support we continue to receive,” the boy’s parents, Matt and Melissa Graves said in a statement. “We are appreciative of the news media professionals who have demonstrated integrity by allowing us much needed privacy.”
“Today we will say goodbye to Lane but we do so, comforted by so many friends and strangers who share in our loss and who have shown us profound compassion,” the Graves’ added.
The Graves have established the Lane Thomas Foundation, saying all donations will go to charity. On the foundation's website they say, "While there is no way to mend our hearts, we can do good work in his honor."
Read more about the memorial fund here.
The parents of a 2-year-old boy who was dragged from his family by an alligator as they waded in Florida waters Tuesday attempted to fight off the alligator before it got away with their child, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
Divers with the Sheriff's Office said they recovered the remains of Lane Graves, 2, around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. The discovery was made about 10 to 15 yards into the Seven Seas Lagoon from where he was taken.
"The father entered the water and he tried to grab the child," said Sheriff Jerry Demings. "At some point, I'm told the mother may have entered the water. So the parents diligently tried to get the child."
The father, identified by Demings as Matt Graves, suffered minor cuts to his arms, a Sheriff's Office spokesman said. The mother was identified as Melissa Graves.
The couple and their three children were visiting from Elkhorn, Nebraska.
At least one of the children, a 4-year-old, was playing nearby as the family relaxed near a pool at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
"The 2-year-old was just along the edge of the bank (of Seven Seas Lagoon) playing in the water when this occurred," Demings said.
He was pulled in by an alligator. Family members alerted a life guard, who was unable to free the child. Authorities responded to the scene just after 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Demings and a priest told the Graves family Lane's body had been found Wednesday afternoon.
"Of course the family was distraught but also I think (they were) somewhat relieved," Demings said. "They can come to grips with what is happening."
Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said authorities will continue to investigate the case. He said five alligators have been located an euthanized, although it wasn't entirely clear whether the alligator responsible for Lane's death was among them.
However, Wiley said, "There's a good chance that we already have that alligator."
A woman vacationing with her family at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa posted photos showing her son standing near the spot where Lane Graves was standing when an alligator attacked him on Tuesday.
"I took these (pictures) at the exact spot this happened (between 8 and 8:30 p.m.) The incident happened at 9 p.m.,” wrote Jennifer Venditti of Massachusetts in a post on Facebook.
Posted by Jennifer Venditti on Wednesday, June 15, 2016
The Reedy Creek Emergency Services call center first received a report about the attack at 9:16 p.m. ET, KTLA reported.
Venditti, whose post has been shared more than 120,000 times, asked for prayers for the Graves family.
"I can't help but wonder if we played with him, did I talk to his Mom?" Venditti wrote. "How does one go home without your baby in tow?"
Lane Graves, son of Matt and Melissa Graves of Elkhorn, Nebraska, was 2. His dad tried without success to fight off the animal.
"They do appreciate all of the prayers that have gone forward," Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said late Wednesday afternoon. "It was a tough message to deliver to them, to let them know that their child is dead."
Lane Grave’s body was found within the immediate area of where he was last seen, after authorities scoured the area via boat, helicopter and with a dive team. Sonar equipment was used in the "murky"water to make the recovery, in about 10 to 15 feet of water, Demings said. His body was intact, Demings said.
Officials will perform an autopsy but the sheriff said he believes "the child was drowned by the alligator."
Disney has closed beaches at its resorts. The pool closest to the Grand Floridians’s beach also was closed on Wednesday.
Demings said Lane was playing along the water’s edge, doing "what any 2-year-old would do" on a regular Florida evening.
Venditti’s message and photos illustrate exactly what Lane was doing -- just wading in the water. There are "no swimming" signs posted at the property, but no alligator warnings.
"I can assure you alligators were not on my mind at all when (my son) was in the water,” Venditti wrote on Facebook. "It’s a tiny beach, surrounded by pools, water slides, a restaurant and a fire pit. I can’t conceive that an alligator would be in such a busy, small space."
Her post asked for prayers for the family and those who witnessed the attack.
Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said gator attacks on people are rare, but noted that Florida waterways are home to many of them. There’s no way to know their whereabouts.
"We have alligators in freshwater throughout Florida," he said during a news conference at dawn. "They move around."
He has said repeatedly that Disney is very proactive about dealing with potentially problematic alligators. As of Wednesday officials had removed five gators. They weren’t sure if they’d found the one who attacked Lane Graves.
PRAY, PRAY so hard for the family & for those who witnessed this tragic event. I took these pics at the exact spot this...Posted by Jennifer Venditti on Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Firefighters at Walt Disney World were warned to stop feeding alligators at one of the resort's fire stations two months before an alligator killed a toddler.
According to emails obtained by media outlets, Reedy Creek Emergency Services admonished firefighters for feeding at least one of two alligators at a station less than a half-mile from Seven Seas Lagoon where 2-year-old son Lane Graves of Omaha, Nebraska, was killed after being pulled into the water by a gator.
>> Read more trending stories
An animal described as being as long as 7 feet snatched the little boy as he waded in shallow water around nightfall on June 14.
The beach, located at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa across a lake from the Magic Kingdom, had "no swimming" signs but no warning about alligators.
It is dangerous to feed alligators because it can cause them to overcome their natural wariness and teaches them to associate people with food, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.
Feeding alligators is also illegal.
The email said employees were afraid after one gator was spotted near the parking lot and asked officials to remove it.
>>The latest on the Disney gator attack
Reedy Creek District Administrator John Classe said Disney's animal-control department was contacted but he did not know whether either alligator was ever removed.
A Disney spokeswoman said Wednesday it was unclear whether the gator had been removed.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
In the wake of the alligator attack that killed a 2-year-old boy at a Walt Disney World resort this week, it has emerged that another park guest's son had a close encounter with one of the predatory reptiles 14 months ago.
On Tuesday night, Lane Graves was playing in a foot of water in the Seven Seas Lagoon near Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa when he was snatched by a gator described by witnesses as between 4 and 7 feet. His father tried to rescue him, to no avail.
His body was recovered the following day. Authorities said drowning and traumatic injury caused his death.
At least six alligators were removed from the lagoon and killed during the search for Lane Graves, and Disney says it is evaluating its safety protocols.
>> Read more trending stories
A San Diego man told CBS News this week that his son had a narrow brush with two of the dangerous creatures during a vacation in April 2015.
David Hiden and his family were staying at the Coronado Springs Resort, about 3 miles from the Grand Floridian, when his 5-year-old son was approached by a gator he estimated to be 6 to 7 feet long.
“I saw something rapidly coming on like a submarine,” Hiden told CBS.
A second gator was lurking nearby when he pulled his son from the water. The lagoon at Coronado Springs is not connected to Seven Seas Lagoon, where the Graves boy was killed.
Hiden told CBS that he notified a hotel manager and showed her a photo he had taken of one of the gators, but she was reportedly unfazed.
“(She said,) ‘Those are ‘resident pets,’ and we’ve known about them for years. And they’re harmless. They’re not going to attack anybody,’” he said.
A video posted to YouTube in 2009, shows an employee stabbing, poking and prodding an alligator trying to make its way on land near Splash Mountain as tourists float by on a log flume, oblivious to what’s going on.
Toddler Lane Graves was playing in a foot of water Tuesday in the Seven Seas Lagoon near Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa when he was snatched and killed by a gator described by witnesses as between 4 and 7 feet in length.
At least six alligators were removed from the lagoon and killed during the search for the Nebraska boy and Disney says it is evaluating its safety protocols.
A search on the video sharing site gives results from over the years of other footage featuring close encounters with the reptiles.
The videos include others showing alligators near Splash Mountain as well as guests feeding alligators including at the Coronado Resort.
<iframe src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/video-shows-disney-employee-fighting-with-alligato/embed?header=none&border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/video-shows-disney-employee-fighting-with-alligato.js?header=none&border=false"></script>[View the story "Video shows Disney employee fighting with alligator near Splash Mountain" on Storify]Video shows Disney employee fighting with alligator near Splash MountainA search on YouTube gives results from over the years of other footage featuring close encounters with the reptiles including a disturbing 2009 video. Storified by CMGNationalNews· Sun, Jun 19 2016 03:12:53Splash Mountain Alligatormoztek5053Walt Disney World - Un véritable alligator sur Splash MountainWonder WorldSplash Mountain, Keep your arms and legs!leafytubeAlligator at Splash Mountain WDWsarema692013 Alligator at Coronado Springs Resort Walt Disney WorldWDWnooks momFeeding alligators in DisneyTaylor Bishop
Guests at the Grand Floridian at Disney noticed Friday afternoon a fence has now been erected around the Seven Seas Lagoon.
It’s the same lake where an alligator, which witnesses said was 4 to 7 feet long, snatched Lane Graves, 2, from the shoreline on Wednesday.
The Lane family, who was visiting from Nebraska, was wading in the water when the attack happened.
Authorities said the father and mother both tried to wrestle the child from the gator, but it was too late.
At least six gators were removed from the pond after the boy was found.
Disney World also announced on Thursday that it would add alligator warning signs near all of its beaches. In the past, only "no swimming" signs were posted.
As of Friday afternoon, the beaches at Disney are still closed following Wednesday’s attack.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it is investigating the death of Graves, as well as whether the agency captured the alligator responsible for the attack.“As a father myself, it’s hard to imagine what the family of Lane Graves is going through. On behalf of the entire Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, we grieve together with Lane’s family, and we offer our continued support now and forever. They are now a part of our extended FWC family, and we will continue to stand with them.” – Chairman Brian Yablonski
In a moving expression of solidarity with the parents of 2-year-old Lane Graves, parents have begun posting photos of their own children playing right where the child was attacked by an alligator.
“My heart goes out to the family who lost their son at Disney this week. It was on this very beach, just a few short months ago, that we were walking and taking pictures,” Jared Lyons wrote with this photo. “You can even see the ‘No Swimming’ sign in the background. I can’t imagine what they are going through with such a tragic loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”
A photo posted by Jared Lyons (@jaredml) on Jun 16, 2016 at 3:22pm PDT
Disney, which plans to post alligator warning signs, previously had no-swimming signs. Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said Lane was playing right along the water’s edge – not swimming – when the attack occurred.
Earlier in the week, another mom made headlines by sharing photos of her children playing in the same spot where Lane was killed.
Visitors to the resort area where the boy was attacked have also begun posting images that show a rainbow over the area.
One poster saw an image of a face - and maybe an angel - in the clouds.
“This is the pic I took took today overlooking the spot in the lagoon where the boy was found at the Grand Floridian,” this poster wrote. “So after looking at this AGAIN, another friend has pointed out the face in the upper left hand corner. Cold chills. Say what you will, but I know exactly what I believe those to be.”
A photo posted by @stilettoprincess98 on Jun 16, 2016 at 7:40pm PDT
“Rainbow over the hotel (where) the 2 year old little boy tragically passed away this week,” Andrea Racca wrote with this beautiful image:
A photo posted by Andrea Racca (@andreamracca) on Jun 16, 2016 at 4:10pm PDT
“We took a moment to stop by where such a tragic moment happened that people will talk about for years to come,” Laurenn Bonner wrote with this image. “I said a prayer, shed a tear and this beautiful rainbow popped up.”
A photo posted by Lauren Bonner (@laurenn_bonner) on Jun 16, 2016 at 4:52pm PDT
The family of a 2-year-old boy who was attacked by an alligator and killed at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa said Wednesday that they do not plan to sue Disney.
Lane Graves was killed on June 2 when he was attacked and dragged underwater by an alligator just feet from shore.
>>The latest on the Disney gator attack
The resort's manmade lake, Seven Seas Lagoon, had "no swimming" signs at the time, but none that warned of alligators.
"Melissa and I are broken," father Matt Graves wrote in a statement released Wednesday. "We will forever struggle to comprehend why this happened to our sweet baby, Lane.
"As each day passes, the pain gets worse, but we truly appreciate the outpouring of sympathy and warm sentiments we have received from around the world."
"We will solely be focused on the future health of our family and will not be pursuing a lawsuit against Disney," the statement said.
The statement also said Graves' parents, Matt and Melissa Graves, were establishing the Lane Thomas Foundation in their son's honor.
"We know we can never have Lane back, and therefore, we intend to keep his spirit alive through (the foundation)," it said. "It is our hope that through the foundation we will be able to share with others the unimaginable love Lane etched in our hearts."
The family asked for privacy, "as we focus on our family."
Disney World is nearly finished adding a rock wall around beaches of the lagoon that borders its Magic Kingdom resorts, acting as a barrier between guests and underwater predators that include alligators blamed in the death of a Nebraska 2-year-old in June.
New signs and a rope fence were added to the beaches behind Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa immediately after the June 14 incident in which Lane Graves was snatched from the beach. The death put a spotlight on guest safety and wildlife on Disney World property.
But the project involving the creation of a large rock barrier around Seven Seas Lagoon was much more involved and is still ongoing behind the neighboring Polynesian Village Resort. Work was completed at the Grand Floridian in late July, according to WDW News Today.
Photos taken this week and posted on the Tikiman's Unofficial Polynesian Village Resort website show work progressing past the main beach at the Polynesian and nearing the end of the resort at the Transportation and Ticket Center.
The fence and signs still stand in front of the rocky shoreline, creating a deterrent for anyone on the beaches. The signs read: "DANGER: Alligators and snakes in area. Stay away from the water. Do not feed the wildlife." Elsewhere on resort property, including outdoor dining areas, are signs that read: "PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE WILDLIFE: Feeding changes their natural behavior and may be harmful to their health."
Prior to the attack, signs posted near the water advised against swimming but did not warn of alligators. Issues were raised recently about the feeding of gators, with one report saying that firefighters in the area were giving them food and told to stop.
The beaches are open during the day but closed from an hour before sundown to an hour after sunup. Guests are also allowed on the beaches at both resorts during the popular nightly fireworks show at the nearby Magic Kingdom, but they're asked to leave immediately after.
The boy’s father, Matt Graves, told rescue officials that two alligators were involved in the fatal attack, according to a report in early July. The man, who was on vacation with his wife and son, was bitten and suffered lacerations while trying to save the boy by prying him from the gator's jaws, rescue officials said. The 2-year-old was wading on the beach behind the Grand Floridian in just a few inches of water.
But experts say that it's not unusual for an alligator to attack in shallow water or even dry land. They routinely eat wading birds, raccoons and dogs along the shoreline, according to a story in Sarasota magazine. Experts told the magazine that the best way to encounter an alligator is at an attraction that puts a wall between you and the animal.
State wildlife officials said they’re confident they caught the alligator that killed the boy. Officials said they killed five during the 16-hour search for the boy's body, which was found intact about 15 yards from shore in the lagoon. Disney World covers more than 27,000 acres in central Florida, with many areas preserved for wildlife.
In late July, the parents released a statement saying they will not sue Disney World over the incident. Matt Graves and Melissa Graves said they hope to "keep (Lane’s) spirit alive" through their work with the Lane Graves Foundation, which they set up to raise donations for various charities.
The death was the first alligator attack at Disney World since an 8-year-old was injured in 1986. More than 240 alligators have been caught and killed over the past decade on Disney World property, according to a report after the boy's death.
State records kept since 1948 show 348 attacks on humans across Florida and 24 fatalities. Once endangered with a population around 300,000, Florida alligators now number around 1 million. Experts warn that any body of fresh water can be home to one or more alligators.
The father of a 3-year-old Nebraska boy who was killed by an alligator at Walt Disney World in June fought desperately but was unable to free the 3-foot, 30-pound child from the animal’s jaws, according to an official report released Monday.
Lane Graves was on the water’s edge building sand castles at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort when he bent over to scoop up some water. The alligator grabbed the boy by his head and neck, puncturing his skull and neck in the process, and began dragging him into the water.
Matt Graves, the boy’s father, put his hands in the alligator’s mouth and tried to pry it open, but was unable to. An Illinois tourist who witnessed the attack told investigators that he saw Graves pull the boy by his feet, but the alligator “whipped him further out into the water.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ruled the attack an accident.
“The victim’s small size and position, (bent down) at the time of the attack, would appear to the alligator similar to many of its normal food sources,” the report said.
“We continue to pray for the Graves family,” said FWC director Nick Wiley. “FWC would like to thank Disney and our partners at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for the professional collaboration on this thorough investigation. Our agency will continue to work to keep families informed on how they can safely enjoy all that Florida has to offer.”
Lane Graves, the 2-year-old boy who was snatched and killed by an alligator on June 14, would've been 3 years old Saturday.
>> Read more trending stories
Lane was snatched while playing near the shoreline at a lagoon at Disney World. He was gathering sand for a sand castle.
To mark his "first birthday in heaven," the boy's family and hundreds of people in Elkton, Nebraska, where the family lives, paid tribute to Lane with the Love for Lane Celebration.
Members of the community wore blue and gathered at the Elkhorn South High School football field. They stood in the shape of a heart before releasing 5,000 blue balloons to "send (their) love up to Lane," the Omaha World-Herald reported.
"Blue is just the color that we chose to signify a little boy," said neighbor Brandi Miller, who helped organize the event.
Lane's family spoke out for the first time since the tragedy.
"Anybody who knows me knows I don’t like to speak but, my baby, I owe it to him to honor him," Melissa Graves, Lane's mother, told the crowd. "So his mommy needed to say, 'Happy birthday, Lanie. You're in our hearts today and every second of every other day.'
"When we were apart, you would tell us, 'I missed you,' as we walked through the door. You would always come running with a big hug and kiss. We all love you so very, very much ... You'll always be Mommy's loving, sweet, baby boy ... We miss you, buddy, and we miss those hugs and kisses."
"Melissa and I often speak of how lucky we were to have spent two years, 11 months and 11 days as a complete family. My wife will tell you those are the happiest days of her life, and I couldn't agree with her more," Lane's father, Matt Graves, said. "Happy birthday, buddy."
Matt also thanked the community for its support.
"What I'm also confident about is that our faith has lifted us up as we fight every day to find peace. We would not have been able to get through the pain without this community, our friends and family, and for that we say thank you," he said.
The Graveses offered M&M cookies because they were Lane's favorite treat. They also handed out small silver crosses with blue ribbons.
The Graveses have said they don't plan to file a lawsuit against Disney World.
The couple also has a 4-year-old daughter, Ella.
Read more at the Omaha World-Herald.
Disney will soon have a way to honor Lane Graves.
A sculpture of a lighthouse will soon stand on Disney property to remember the 2-year-old. The lighthouse is a symbol used by the Lane Thomas Foundation, which was set up by the Graves family following his death.
Graves and his family were vacationing from Nebraska in June 2016 when he was killed. He was scooping sand on the beach area when the alligator appeared out of Seven Seas Lagoon.
Lane’s father tried to grab his son and fight off the alligator, but it was too late.
The Lane Thomas organization supports families of children in need of life saving organ transplants.
The lighthouse will be installed sometime this summer, in an undisclosed location.
Read Disney’s full statement below:
"The Lane Thomas Foundation was created to give honor and light to Lane's life. The foundation is dedicated to supporting families of children needing life-saving organ transplants. To provide continued awareness of the foundation and its mission, we've commissioned an original sculpture of the lighthouse the foundation uses as a symbol of love and hope, to be installed on our property this summer.”
– George A. Kalogridis, President, Walt Disney World Resort
A lighthouse at Disney World will honor a young life lost at theme park.
Lane Graves, 2, was attacked and killed by an alligator at the Grand Floridian in June 2016.
He and his family were on vacation and he was scooping sand on the beach area when the alligator appeared out of Seven Seas Lagoon and snatched him.
Disney and the Graves family announced in June a sculpture of a lighthouse will soon stand on Disney property to remember Lane.
The family set up The Lane Thomas Foundation to support pediatric organ donation.
The lighthouse sculpture was recently installed near the resort where Lane died.
The Graves family said in a statement, “We find comfort that so many people continue to remember our sweet boy, Lane, and we believe the lighthouse stands as a beacon of hope and support for families in the depths of despair. We will continue to honor Lane and preserve his spirit through the Lane Thomas Foundation."
State wildlife officials said they've captured and removed several dozen alligators from Walt Disney World since a toddler was killed by one last year.
An alligator grabbed Lane Graves, 3, of Omaha, Nebraska, as he played on a beach outside Disney's Grand Floridian Resort on June 14, 2016.
The gator pulled him under water in front of his parents.
Data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shows that 16 alligators were removed from the resort in June 2016 and another 17 were captured in July 2016.
Before Graves’s death, 24 alligators had been removed from Disney properties that year, according to FWC officials.
That number doubled to 53 from the day of his death to the end of 2016.
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