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Alligator attack family 'devastated' by son's Walt Disney World death

Published 17/06/2016

Two-year-old Lane Graves's body was recovered on Wednesday (Orange County Sheriff's Office/PA)
Two-year-old Lane Graves's body was recovered on Wednesday (Orange County Sheriff's Office/PA)

The parents of a US toddler killed by an alligator at Walt Disney World have said they are "devastated" by the loss of their son.

A statement by Matt and Melissa Graves of Omaha, Nebraska, said words cannot express the shock and grief their family is enduring.

"We are devastated and ask for privacy during this extremely difficult time," said the statement, released by a family friend.

The brief statement also thanked authorities in Orlando, Florida, for their assistance after the alligator grabbed two-year-old Lane Graves from shallow water in a lake at a Disney hotel on Tuesday.

An animal described as being as long as seven feet snatched the little boy as he waded in shallow water. The beach, located at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa across a lake from the Magic Kingdom, had "no swimming" signs but no warnings about alligators.

The company said it will now add alligator warnings. The resort's beaches remain closed.

A statement by Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said the company was also conducting a "swift and thorough review of all of our processes and protocols".

While it is an unwritten rule for Florida residents to keep small children away from ponds and lakes in a state with an alligator population estimated at more than 1 million, many out-of-state visitors are not aware of threat posed by the reptiles.

Kadie Whalen of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, said her three young children and niece were playing on a resort beach at the water's edge four years ago when a seven-foot alligator appeared in a lake a few feet away. She immediately alerted the children to the danger and no one was hurt.

"We knew that Disney was aware that this was a problem, and yet they encourage people to be there," she said.

State wildlife officials say they receive nearly 16,000 alligator-related complaints a year. Last year, they removed more than 7,500 alligators deemed to be a nuisance.

Depending on the size of an alligator, the state may send out a trapper, as happened after the alligator grabbed the boy at Disney's Seven Seas Lagoon. Officials said five alligators were removed from the lake during the search for the child, whose body was found in the water on Wednesday.

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