Gator Drags Toddler Into Water Near Disney World

( 4UMF NEWS ) Gator Drags Toddler Into Water Near Disney World:

Some 50 wildlife specialists — including a trained alligator trapper — were combing a lake Wednesday at a Disney World resort hotel looking for a 2-year-old boy who was snatched by a 7- or 8-foot alligator while wading on the beach.

The boy was grabbed Tuesday evening while playing in about a foot of water at the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Grand Floridian Hotel with his father.

"The father entered the water and he tried to grab the child, but was not successful in doing so," Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings told reporters at an early morning news conference.

The mother also rushed into the water to try to save the boy. When the frantic couple was unable to pull their son to safety, they alerted a nearby lifeguard who called 911. The father received minor injuries to his hand.

Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is spearheading the search, said the American alligator was feeding and likely confused the small child for a dog or a raccoon, he said. Such gators, he said, do not typically feed on humans. “People – even small people – are not their typical prey,” Wiley said.

More than 50 officers from the Orange County Sheriff's office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission are involved in the search at the lake outside Orlando, Fla., Demings said.

Helicopters, two marine units, sonar equipment, a dive team and an alligator trapper are being used in the hunt for the toddler in the darkened waters. They divided the lake into a grid pattern to look for the shine of alligator eyes in the dark and used sonar to scan the waters, he said. The man-made lake has several canals feeding into it, making the search trickier.

Officials said they removed four alligators from the lagoon but found no evidence of the child, CBS12 News reported. The broadcaster said the reptiles will be euthanized to determine if they had any involvement in the incident.

Wildlife officials count around a dozen alligator bites a year in Florida, but fatalities from alligators are far less common. There have only been 23 fatalities caused by alligators in Florida since the 1940s, he said. Tuesday's incident is the first such known alligator attack at the Seven Seas Lagoon, Wiley said.

“They were probably attracted to some motion on the bank,” he said. “That’s the way they stalk their prey.”

The mother, father and their three children, who are from Nebraska, have been staying at the hotel since Sunday, according to Demings.

The sheriff said he was "hopeful that we are able to locate the child in a reasonable period of time" but acknowledged there might not be a happy resolution to the search.

"As a father, as a grandfather, we're going to hope for the best in these circumstances, but based on my 35 years of law enforcement experience we know that we have some challenges ahead of us at this time," he said. "We'll be out throughout the night — the morning if you will — continuing this search until we have a successful resolution for this family."

"Everyone here at the Walt Disney World resort is devastated by this tragic accident," Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said. "We are helping the family and doing everything we can to assist law enforcement."

There are posted signs warning guests against swimming in the lake, Demings said.

The terrifying alligator attack at one of the world's favorite family vacation destinations comes as the Orlando area is still reeling from the mass shooting at a nightclub that claimed 49 lives Saturday and the fatal shooting of singer Christina Grimmie at a concert Friday.

"We're doing our best to deal with all of the situations that we have going on here, but our staff is very resilient and tonight they are very focused on assisting this family," Demings said.

"We're not leaving until we recover the child," he said.