Probe of Disney resort after alligator death not criminal - sheriff

Reuters
Orlando Published: Jun 16, 2016, 08:00 PM(IST)

Police divers recovered the body of Lane Graves on Wednesday from the man-made lake where he had been snatched by the alligator as he played at the water's edge the night before Photograph:( Reuters )

The probe into the death of a two-year-old boy likely drowned by an alligator at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, is not criminal in nature, the local sheriff's office said on Thursday.

Police divers recovered the body of Lane Graves on Wednesday from the man-made lake where he had been snatched by the alligator as he played at the water's edge the night before.

The investigation is continuing, said Orange County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Rose Silva, adding, "It's not criminal in nature at this time." She did not provide further details.

A Disney spokeswoman has said the company would review the posted signs that ban swimming in Seven Seas Lagoon but do not specifically warn about alligators.

The boy was grabbed by the reptile at about 9:15 p.m. local time on Tuesday while his family, on vacation from Elkhorn, Nebraska, relaxed on the shore nearby, sheriffs officials have said. His parents, Matt and Melissa Graves, tried to save the child but were unable to free him from the alligator's grip.

The boy's body was found intact underwater, and he was presumed to have been drowned by the alligator.

The aquatic predators often roll their larger prey beneath the surface until their victim stops breathing, experts say, and then stash the body away to eat later.

Disney said that Chief Executive Bob Iger spoke with the family by phone on Wednesday and expressed his sympathies.

Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said on Thursday that resort beaches that were closed after the attack would be off-limits to guests until further notice.

"All of our beaches are currently closed, and we are conducting a swift and thorough review of all of our processes and protocols," Wahler said in a statement. "This includes the number, placement and wording of our signage and warnings."

SIXTH GATOR CAUGHT

The alligator was believed to be between four and seven feet (1.2 and 2 meters) long.

Trappers remained at the lagoon on Thursday after removing a sixth alligator from the water late on Wednesday in an effort to find the one that snatched the child, said Greg Workman, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They have not found it yet.

The commission's executive director, Nick Wiley, has said there is a good chance they have already captured the alligator in question. But officials said the search would go on until that was proved by forensic tests such as DNA studies, teeth measurements and comparison of bite marks.

Workman said the commission also has wildlife officers on the scene around the clock, including three last night. He said they are searching all day, but especially at night when alligators are more active because of cooler temperatures and less human activity.

Walt Disney Co <DIS.N> shares were down about 0.5 per cent at $98.22 in afternoon trading on Thursday. Its Orlando resort is the most-visited theme park in the world, drawing more than 20 million visitors last year.

The incident came ahead of Thursday's opening of the company's first theme park in China, a $5.5 billion project in Shanghai that boasts Disney's tallest castle.

The attack happened on a beach by Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, an upmarket property just one stop away from the Magic Kingdom on Walt Disney World's monorail.

The hotel's website - rooms start at $569 a night before taxes - says guests can enjoy diversions such as "bask on the white-sand beach."

(Reuters)
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