LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The search was continuing Wednesday morning for a 2-year-old boy who was dragged into the water by an alligator near Disney’s upscale Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, authorities said.
The effort was still considered a “search and rescue operation,” said Jeff Williamson, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
“We are very hopeful,” he said at a morning news conference. “Sometimes you get the worst, but we are hoping for the best.”
The family of five from Nebraska was on vacation and wading in a lake around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday when the attack happened in an area where “no swimming” signs were posted, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings told a news conference earlier in the morning. The father tried to rescue his son but was unsuccessful, Demings said.
More than 50 law enforcement personnel searched the Seven Seas Lagoon along with an alligator tracker and two marine units in an effort that continued through the night. Williamson said more personnel would be brought in Wednesday morning to offer some “fresh eyes” for the search.
Nick Wiley with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation said it’s rare for people to be attacked by alligators, but he added that the creatures move around.
The alligator was estimated to be 4 to 7 feet long, but its exact size was not known, Demings said.
Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahaler said everyone at the resort was devastated by what happened and Disney is helping the family.
When asked if Disney was aware of alligators on the property, Wahaler advised there were signs that said “no swimming.”
Demings said there had been no other recent reports of similar alligator attacks on the lake.
Williamson brushed aside reporters’ questions about the odds of rescuing the child at this point. “Right now, hopefully, we’re searching for a little boy to bring the family some comfort,” he said.
The alligator attack comes amid what was already a tragic week in the Orlando area. On Sunday, a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, leaving 49 victims dead in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.