The frantic search for a 2-year-old boy snatched Tuesday night by an alligator at an Orlando Disney resort and dragged into a lagoon has become a recovery effort, authorities told Fox News.
Disney announced Wednesday morning it was closing all of the beaches at its resorts out of an abundance of caution.
Though authorities were still scouring the Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney World’s The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, hope had begun to fade Wednesday morning and Orange County Sheriff’s Office PIO Jeff Williamson told Fox News the operation had moved into a search-and-recovery phase.
“The sad reality of it is it’s been several hours and we’re not likely going to recover a live body,” Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said earlier.
Four alligators had already been caught in the lagoon and euthanized early Wednesday morning, but no evidence had been found indicating any of those reptiles were responsible for attacking the boy, a Florida Fish and Wildlife official said.
The toddler was playing at the edge of the shoreline of the lagoon when the alligator came up and snatched the boy, Williamson said. The boy’s family is from Nebraska and they were on vacation with their three children at the resort when the alligator attacked, Demings said.
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The boy’s father entered the water and tried to grab the child from the reptile, but he was unsuccessful and sustained cuts and lacerations during the struggle, Demings said. The parents quickly alerted a lifeguard, but the lifeguard was too far away from the scene of the attack to help the father.
The initial report of the incident came in right before 9:30 p.m., Orange County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Rose Silva said.
More than 50 law enforcement personnel were searching the Seven Seas Lagoon, along with an alligator tracker and two marine units, Demings said. Reedy Creek Fire Rescue, Orange County and the Florida Fish and Wildlife authorities were also searching, The Orlando Sentinel reported.
A sonar boat was being used, because sending divers in would be like “seeking a needle in a haystack,” Williamson told Fox News.
The attack happened at an area of the lagoon where “no swimming” signs were posted, Demings said. The boy wasn’t swimming in the water, but playing on the edge, about a foot or two into the water, Williamson said.
The alligator was estimated to be 4 feet to 7 feet long, but its exact size was not known, he said.
Fox 35 News reported two helicopters had joined ground and water efforts to find the boy.
A.J. Jain, a guest at The Grand Floridian right outside Disney’s Magic Kingdom, told the Sentinel he and his children were playing at the same beach earlier Tuesday.
“I’m just here to say a prayer,” he said. “I can’t imagine what those parents are going through. It’s been one tough week in Orlando.”
Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahaler said everyone at the resort was devastated by what happened and Disney is helping the family.
Demings said there had been no other recent reports of similar alligator attacks on the lake.
“We have no record of this happening before,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.