Orlando can't take any more heartbreaking news after Sunday's deadly attack at Pulse nightclub, but unthinkably, another tragedy is playing out in the Florida home of Disney World. Last night, a 2-year-old boy was reportedly dragged into a lagoon by an alligator at upscale hotel and spa the Grand Floridian. As of this morning, the Nebraska toddler still had not been recovered.
According to NBC News, the toddler was playing "just a foot or so into the water" in Seven Seas Lagoon, upon which the luxury resort is situated, as are other Disney properties—including one I have stayed at with my family on multiple occasions, the Wilderness Lodge.
Movies are often screened at night in this area, and it offers a good view of the nightly fireworks at Magic Kingdom, so perhaps that is why the family was lingering in that area.
"The father at some point struggled to try to get his son and was not successful," a witness said. The mother also attempted to save her son, according to USA Today. A lifeguard was then notified, and police were called.
A desperate search and rescue effort is currently underway, utilizing helicopters, two marine units, sonar equipment, a dive team and an alligator trapper to search for the toddler in the dark man-made lagoon, which leads out to several canals. "We are very hopeful. We are hoping for the best—sometimes you get the worst," Jeff Williamson, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Office, said this morning in a press conference. NBC reports four alligators have been caught and killed since the attack, but authorities don't believe they have yet found the particular alligator, described as being between 4 and 7 feet long, who grabbed the boy.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings added, "We're not leaving until we recover the child. As a father, as a grandfather, we're going to hope for the best in these circumstances, but based upon my 35 years of law enforcement experience, we know that we have some challenges ahead of us at this time."
For its part, Disney World Resort's vice president Jacquee Wahler said, "Everyone here at the Walt Disney World Resort is devastated by this tragic accident. Our thoughts are with the family. We are helping the family and doing everything we can to assist law enforcement."
It's hard to imagine what this family, whose magical vacation has turned into every parent's worst nightmare, is going through as they await the news of what happened to their son. They are currently undergoing counseling.
Meanwhile, last year, a toddler drowned at another Disney World resort called Art of Animation. Clearly, accidents like these are not what one expects at what is known as the happiest place on earth. As a devoted fan of the theme park, who has enjoyed countless amazing memories with my family there, it just breaks my heart that these accidents are happening.
Our thoughts and prayers are with this family.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.