-- The body of the 2-year-old Nebraska boy who was attacked and dragged into a lake by an alligator at a Walt Disney World resort has been recovered, authorities said this afternoon.
The body of the toddler, identified by authorities as Lane Graves, was "completely intact" when it was found about 10 to 15 yards from shore, according to Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.
Members of the Orange County Sheriff's Office dive team located the body around 1:45 p.m. and recovered it less than two hours later. The body has been turned over to the Orange County Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy, Demings told reporters.
Authorities will formally identify the body, but there is "no reason" to believe that the body recovered was not Lane's, Demings noted.
Five alligators have been taken from the lake and euthanized, said Nick Wiley, the executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He said there is a "good chance" one of these alligators attacked the boy. Investigators will analyze teeth marks to make a determination.
Disney has a "very proactive program" of routinely removing alligators that pose a threat, Wiley said. The company is in constant contact with the FWC to remove alligators, he added.
Demings informed the boy's parents, Matt and Melissa Graves of Elkhorn, Nebraska, that their son's body was found, calling it a "tough message to deliver." A Catholic priest accompanied him to deliver the message, he said.
The family was "distraught but somewhat relieved" that authorities were able to locate their son with his body intact, Demings said.
"The Graves family appreciate the support they have received and have asked for privacy as they grieve the loss of their son," the Orange County Sheriff's Office tweeted Wednesday evening,
George A. Kalogridis, the president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement, "There are no words to convey the profound sorrow we feel for the family and their unimaginable loss. We are devastated and heartbroken by this tragic accident and are doing what we can to help the family during this difficult time. On behalf of everyone at Disney, we offer our deepest sympathies."
And Robert A. Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, said in a statement, "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.
Iger spoke to the family from Shanghai and Kalogridis immediately flew back to Orlando from Shanghai upon learning about the incident, a spokesman for Disney said.
Rescue teams were initially hopeful that they would find the boy alive. The search for the boy's body in the Seven Seas Lagoon, an artificial lake on Disney property, lasted more than 16 hours.
Earlier today the resort temporarily shuttered its beach areas and recreational marinas in the wake of the gator attack.
Demings said about 50 people from the sheriff's office alone assisted in the recovery effort.
Dozens of rescue crews — including personnel from the FWC, Reedy Creek Fire Rescue and the Orange County Sheriff's Office — combed the lake with sonar equipment. Experienced alligator trappers were also brought in to help with the recovery effort, officials said.
The boy was playing along of the shore of the water when the alligator snatched him and dragged him into the lake, officials said. The family was sitting near the water and "enjoying the evening" after watching a movie on the beach, Demings said.
The attack occurred around 9:15 p.m. Eyewitnesses saw the alligator grab the child, Demings said. No one else was in the water at the time.
"The father entered the water and tried to grab the child from the gator but was not successful," Demings said.
The boy's parents then alerted a nearby lifeguard that an alligator had attacked the boy.
Officials estimate the alligator was 4 to 7 feet long.
There are no warning signs of gators in the area, but there are notices posted against swimming in the man-made lake. Disney will look into all issues concerning the signage, Wiley said.
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