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September 28, 2021
Entertainment

Probe of Disney resort after alligator death not criminal – sheriff

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Fla. (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.

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.

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

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials caught and killed five alligators from the lake in an effort to find the one that snatched the child. They have not yet found it.

The commission’s executive director, Nick Wiley, has said officials believed there was a good chance they had already captured the alligator in question, but he said the search would go on until that was proved by forensic tests such as bite marks.

Walt Disney Co shares were down about 1 percent at $97.69 around midday 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.

(Additional reporting by Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Toni Reinhold)

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