Disney to post gator warnings after death of 2-year-old

By Martin Smith   |   June 17, 2016 at 9:49 AM
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ORLANDO, Fla., June 17 (UPI) -- Following the death of a 2-year-old boy attacked by an alligator, Walt Disney World is planning to put up signs warning visitors about the reptiles that swim in waterways in and around its Florida theme parks.

Disney's Orlando resort beaches remained closed Thursday as officials continued investigating the death of Lane Graves, who was snatched by an alligator as he played along the shore at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

The toddler was dragged into the Seven Seas Lagoon on Tuesday night and his body recovered after a 16-hour search.

The Orange County Medical Examiner's Office said the cause of death was drowning and "traumatic injuries."

Disney has "no swimming" signs along the beaches at its hotels, but now it plans to put up more explicit signs warning about gators, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

"We are conducting a swift and thorough review of all of our processes and protocols," Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said in a statement Thursday. "This includes the number, placement and wording of our signage and warnings."

Lane Graves, from Elkhorn, Neb., was playing near the edge of the 172-acre man-made lake when he was snatched by the gator. He was vacationing with his parents, Matt and Melissa, and 4-year-old sister.

The boy's father tried to free his son from the reptile's jaws, but Lane was dragged off into the water. A witness said the attack was over in less than a minute before the gator disappeared into the waters with the boy.

Since then, questions have been raised as to why Disney didn't do more to warn visitors of the dangers of alligators.

One employee said there has been a problem with guests feeding gators at the resort.

This wasn't Disney's first alligator attack, although it is the first fatal one. In 1986, an alligator bit a boy at a pond at Disney's Fort Wilderness campground.

It is "reprehensible" the resort did not warn guests of alligators, said Tom Scolaro, a Miami personal-injury attorney. "I think Disney is facing considerable liability for the wrongful death of this young child and this tragedy that happened to these parents," he said.

Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger has spoken with Lane's family following the tragedy, and Disney World president George Kalogridis left festivities at the opening of Disney's new resort in Shanghai to return to Orlando.

Disney stopped allowing swimming in the lagoon areas in the 1990s, said Pacific Asset Management leisure analyst Bob Boyd.

He noted that Disney will likely step up monitoring of its gator population.

"I would expect in certain locations they'll effectively over time be fencing off and closing some off some of those areas," he said. "The role of the beaches has really diminished as far as an attraction for them. I expect that will accelerate quite a bit."

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