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ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) – Police divers on Wednesday recovered the body of a 2-year-old boy who was grabbed by an alligator in front of his family during a vacation at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
The child was snatched by the alligator as he played at the water’s edge on Tuesday night and dragged into a lagoon despite his parents’ effort to save him.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said he and a Catholic priest had informed the family that the boy’s body had been recovered near where he vanished and was completely intact.
An autopsy would be carried out, Demings added, but the presumption was that the child was drowned by the alligator.
“It was a tough message to deliver,” Demings told a news conference. “Of course the family was distraught, but also I believe somewhat relieved that we were able to find their son … so that they can come to grips with what has happened.”
The alligator was believed to be between 4 and 7 feet long.
Wildlife officials earlier captured and killed five of the reptiles from Seven Seas Lagoon and opened them up to look for traces of the boy. Nick Wiley, head of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said it was too early to say whether one of those five might be the culprit.
“There is a good chance we already have the alligator because we focused our efforts in that proximity, in that area where this incident occurred,” he said, adding that the probe would focus on results of forensic tests and bite marks on the child’s body.
The family, on vacation from the Omaha, Nebraska suburb of Elkhorn, were named as Matt and Melissa Graves. Their son was named Lane.
There are signs prohibiting swimming at the lagoon but the boy was grabbed as he was playing at the water’s edge while his family relaxed nearby on the shore, authorities said.
The boy’s father rushed into the water and suffered minor cuts on his arm as he fought to wrestle his child from the alligator’s grasp, said Jeff Williamson, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities said the boy’s mother tried to rescue him too. A lifeguard on duty also was unable to reach the toddler in time.