Autopsy reveals boy killed by gator died due to drowning, injuries

ORLANDO, Fla. (WNCN) -The two-year-old boy who was grabbed by an alligator and dragged into a lagoon at a Walt Disney World hotel in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, died due to drowning and traumatic injuries, the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office said Thursday.

Lane Graves, who was on vacation with his family from Nebraska, was found Wednesday in the water not far from where he was attacked the previous night.

Meanwhile, a Florida sheriff says charges are unlikely against the Graves’ parents.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings tells The Associated Press there was no indication Matt and Melissa Graves of suburban Omaha, Nebraska, committed any crime that contributed to the reptile grabbing their son, Lane Graves.

The family’s small Nebraska community is mourning.

Lane Graves, 2, was in about a foot of water Tuesday around 9 p.m. when an alligator grabbed him. His father, Matt, fought the alligator while his mother, Melissa, screamed for help from lifeguards.

The alligator dragged Lane into murky water and drowned him. Lane’s intact body was found Wednesday.

The Graves had arrived at Disney on Sunday on a vacation from Elkhorn, Nebraska, a small community of 6,000 just west of Omaha. They attend St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, and their 4-year-old daughter attends the school there.

Lane Graves, killed by an alligator at Disney World. (Orange County Sheriff's Office)
PHOTOS: Nebraska boy killed at Disney World

“This has been complete devastation. The community is totally deflated. We’re just speechless, and you hurt immeasurably for this family,” said Norm Hale, principal of the St. Patrick School in the family’s Elkhorn, Neb., neighborhood, according to The Boston Herald.

“It’s a tragic accident of epic proportions and you just can’t explain it,” Hale said. “How can you try to even explain how something like this could happen to this family?”

The church, on its website, asked people to keep the Graves family in their prayers. The church said that per the family’s request, donations can be dropped off at the parish. At Thursday’s Mass, a rosary was planned for the Graves family.

Matt Graves is chief data officer for Infogroup, according to his LinkedIn profile, and has been on the Greater Omaha Chamber board since 2013. In a statement, Chamber president David G. Brown said, “The loss of a child is a special kind of tragedy, particularly hard to comprehend. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the Graves family during this time of unthinkable sadness.”

While the tragedy struck Nebraska hard, it also numbed Disney World in a shocking start to the summer season.

Alligators are common in Florida but alligator attacks are rare. The Disney resort where Lane was attacked, the Grand Floridian, has signs around the lagoons saying no swimming, but there are not signs warning of alligators, according to reports. A Disney official said the company would “thoroughly review the situation for the future.”

Sheriff Jerry Demings said it is rare to see alligators at the lagoon. Asked by CNN’s Erin Burnett if there should be alligator warning signs at the beach, he responded, “In every tragedy there’s an opportunity to learn from it and to make modifications.”

A Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission spokesman said that bite marks would be compared to the five alligators that were removed from the lake during the search for the boy.

“There’s a good chance we have the alligator,” said Nick Wiley with the FWC.

The sheriff said he and a Catholic priest broke the horrible news to Lane’s parents.

“It was a tough message to deliver to them to let them know their child is dead,” Demings said.

The sheriff said he hoped the discovery helped bring some closure to the boy’s family. The sheriff also relayed a message to the public from the boy’s parents.

“They do appreciate all of the prayers.”

The family’s Elkhorn, Nebraska, church community expressed sadness Wednesday.

“It is with a heavy heart that we write to you today to inform you of the tragic loss of one of our parish families,” said Father Gary Ostrand of St. Patrick’s Church.  “At this time, keep them in your prayers.”

Wiley with FWC said  Wednesday that Disney has been in Orlando for 45 years and something like this has never happened. Wiley said that Disney has a wildlife management system in place to make sure guests are not unduly exposed to wildlife.

He said Disney is very pro-active when it comes to alligators. “Anytime they see an alligator, they can be taken out,” he said. “Disney does everything by the book. They have an amazing program.”

“This is a tragedy, it is terrible. But, it is a rare occurrence,” said Wiley.


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