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Gator snatches toddler

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – A 2-year-old Nebraska boy was attacked and dragged away by an alligator at a lake at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Tuesday night, according to the Orange County sheriff, who said the search for the toddler was expected to continue through the morning.

The attack occurred about 9:15 p.m. on the beach area of the artificial Seven Seas Lagoon, Sheriff Jerry L. Demings said at a news conference early Wednesday. The boy was partly in the water at the edge of the lagoon with his mother, father and 4-year-old sister when the alligator pulled him away, the sheriff said.

“The father entered the water and tried to grab the child and was not successful in doing so,” Sheriff Demings said.

He said the child’s mother may have also gone into the water to help. The father alerted a lifeguard, he said.

Fifty officers and two boats from law enforcement agencies in the Orlando area were searching the lake and the grounds of the hotel, which is at Walt Disney World.

Sheriff Demings said there was little hope the boy had survived. “We’re not likely now to find a live body,” he said.

The sheriff did not identify the victim or his family, who he said were from Nebraska and had been visiting here since Sunday. He said there had been other witnesses to the attack.

The father suffered scratches on his hand from the encounter with the alligator, Sheriff Demings said.

The sheriff’s office was working to find the child along with personnel from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The sheriff said the search involved marine units on boats with sonar equipment, an alligator trapper and a dive team on standby.

Sheriff Demings said that no such attack had been recorded at the lagoon before and that no “nuisance alligators” had been reported in the area recently.

Alligators are common in lakes in Central Florida, but attacks are relatively rare. (The New York Times)