LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - This is supposed to be the happiest, most magical place on earth, but as investigators continue searching following a Tuesday night alligator attack on a 2-year-old, things are uncharacteristically grim.
Although authorities have searched diligently since the child was attacked at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the most recent update from law enforcement left no hope of a happy ending.
“This is a recovery effort at this point,” Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said in his most recent news briefing. "It has been, now, about 15 hours since the child was taken into the water. We know we are working on recovering the body of a child at this point."
Disney beaches have been closed as the search continues; Demings said that affected nine locations.
Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said gator attacks on people are rare, but noted that Florida waterways are home to many of them. There’s no way to know their whereabouts.
“We have alligators in freshwater throughout Florida,” he said during a news conference at dawn. “They move around.”
At the more recent update, FWC officials said Disney employs a full-time staff to deal with potential alligator issues. When a gator becomes a concern, it is euthanized, not relocated. Moving it to a new location merely transports the problem, officials noted.
The waterway is a sizable, manmade area. No-swimming signs are posted. The child was playing near the water's edge. His father tried fighting off the animal to no avail.
At the Grand Floridian, the beach and the pool closest to it both were closed on Wednesday. A phalanx of Disney employees (or "cast members," as they're officially called) were dispatched to stand guard and to prevent resort guests from taking photos.
Inside the elegant resort on Wednesday, families were enjoying time with Disney characters while outside, law enforcement officers searched via boat and helicopter.
Here are some images from the scene: