If you’ve been watching the news or been on the internet the past few days then it’s likely that you’ve seen or read about the tragic death of 2 yr old Lane Graves. The Nebraska boy was visiting Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort with his family and had been at the resort since Sunday. On Tuesday while enjoying an evening on the beach with his family Lane was snatched from the shoreline of the Seven Seas Lagoon by an alligator. According to authorities and eye witnesses the boy’s father tried fighting the alligator off, but was unsuccessful. After a 16 hour search divers recovered the boy’s body from about six feet below the lagoon’s surface and only 10 to 15 feet from where he had last been seen.
When I first read this story, without knowing any of the details, my first reaction was one of anger and judgment against the parents. My initial thought was “where were the parents?” As the mom of two young girls I assumed the child had been left alone or wasn’t being carefully monitored. That was probably a bad assumption on my part because you know what they say when you assume.
However, after the story started to unfold and more details began surfacing about the incident my initial anger and judgment towards the parents turned into sympathy, empathy, and sadness. The child hadn’t been left alone or wasn’t unmonitored. He was simply doing what he went to Disney to do. He was enjoying the evening by the water with his family.
As I reflect on this story, on my own role as a mother, and the many vacations I’ve yet to take with my little ones (one of which is to Disney) my heart breaks for this family. For the family to bear witness to such an unimaginable experience is beyond comprehension. For the father to fight unsuccessfully against the alligator trying to get his son back and not succeed is gut wrenching; and to have to stand there watching the animal disappear back into the deep water with his son in its jaws is a memory that I’m sure will be forever embedded in his mind. To call this a tragedy is an understatement. This is a freak accident that never should have happened.
Alligators are a common sight in Florida ponds, lakes, lagoons and canals. Orange County sheriff, Jerry L. Demings said five alligators were taken from the lagoon after the boy went under. They were euthanized in an effort to determine if any of them had been responsible for the boy’s death. The fact that there were five alligators taken from the lagoon begs the question of why didn’t the resort have signs warning of alligators in the area?
According to the NY Times, “Sheriff Demings noted that Disney had been in business in the area for 45 years and had never had a similar incident.” However, the absence of similar incidents is not a good enough defense for not having signs and warning hotel guests and patrons of the potential dangers and risks.
I am almost positive if there had been a sign warning of alligators in the area the Graves family or any family for that matter would have been nowhere near that lagoon. I know for sure I wouldn’t have been. Thomas Scolaro, a Miami based attorney, who has represented families after alligator attacks elsewhere, expressed that in this case, “the facts look horrible for Disney.”
“While this is a tragedy, it was entirely preventable had Disney acted reasonably and not left unwitting tourists at the mercy of dangerous and wild animals that roam its resort,” he said.
Considering that wildlife experts estimate that there are 1.3 million alligators in Florida, and that they can be found in all 67 counties it is a reasonable expectation that the place which promotes itself as the “Happiest Place on Earth” exercise all precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of its guests. I’ve never stayed at a Disney resort, but I would expect that any place that caters specifically to children would be safe. I believe that is a reasonable expectation.
Thus far every article I’ve read about this and every news broadcast I’ve seen has failed to ask any of these questions. Why isn’t Disney being held responsible? Why didn’t they take measures to make sure an incident like this didn’t occur? I bet now they will. But it’s too little too late. A boy lost his life and a family lost their son.
Director of Communications for Walt Disney parks and resorts, Jacquee Wahler said ““We are devastated by this tragic accident. Our thoughts are with the family.”
As a parent that statement is unacceptable to me. “Their thoughts” are not going to bring little Lane back. Nor will it ease the heartbreak the family is feeling. No amount of sorry or condolences will ever assuage the pain this family has to live with forever.