|Photo by Freeimages.com/Michael Sult|
by Harriet Alexander, The Daily Telegraph, June 17, 2016
Disney World in Florida is facing a police investigation into the lack of alligator warnings on a resort beach where a toddler was killed, as officials said there was nothing to indicate the child’s parents had been neglectful.
Lane Graves, tw-o, was snatched on Tuesday as he paddled in less than a foot of water at the Seven Seas Lagoon – a man-made pool adjacent to Disney’s Grand Floridian hotel and spa.
Alligator spotted in Disney resort lagoon days before boy drownedPlay!00:24
His parents, on holiday from Nebraska, were on the beach when the incident happened, while his four-year-old sister, Ella, was in a playpen. The boy’s father, Matt, rushed into the water to wrestle with the animal to try to save his son, but the boy’s body was found after a 17-hour search.
Signs warned the beach was not safe for swimming and noted deep water, but did not mention alligators.
Disney World is now planning to install signs warning of alligators in the area following the attack, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.
The Graves family released a statement praising local authorities and adding: "Words cannot describe the shock and grief our family is experiencing over the loss of our son. We are devastated and ask for privacy during this extremely difficult time."
Richard Troutman, a lawyer based in Orlando, claimed the boy’s death was “an accident waiting to happen.”
He told The Telegraph: “This was not some freak accident. It’s been a ticking time bomb.
“I’ve heard stories of dogs and deer being snatched from the shallows, and once saw a 12-15ft alligator just walking along the side of the road by the resort.
“I feel very passionately that a 'no swimming’ sign is totally inadequate.”
The state has 1.25 million alligators. Frank Mazzotti, a professor of wildlife ecology at University of Florida, said it was “impossible to keep them out of any body of water”.
Justin Ziegler, a lawyer specialising in Disney-related claims, said a previous case, when a man died while swimming in Lake Alice in Gainsville in 1986, was dismissed because there were “no swimming” signs.
But he said any lawyer would look for evidence that Disney knew of alligators in the lagoon, and had a duty to warn that there were alligators there. They would have to prove Disney knew about the dangers that alligators can cause, and removed alligators from that lake – something the resort has already said it does.
“My prediction is that if this accident results in a claim or lawsuit, Disney will try to settle the case either before a lawsuit, or during the lawsuit,” he said.
“Big companies don’t like bad publicity, especially involving the death of a child.”
This article was written by Harriet Alexander from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.