Disney Closes All Its Beaches In Orlando After The Alligator Tragedy

In response to the continuing search and rescue mission for a two-year-old boy dragged away by an alligator, Disney has closed its resort beaches. The park has not determined when they will reopen. A Disney spokesperson told the press that the decision was made "out of an abundance of caution" Wednesday morning. The attack happened while the boy was wading in less than a foot of water in the Seven Seas Lagoon outside of the Grand Floridian resort at about 9 p.m ET. The boy's father attempted to fight the alligator, but unfortunately did not succeed in rescuing his son. The family, which also includes a four-year-old daughter, had arrived at the theme park from Nebraska on Sunday.

There are about 1.3 million alligators in Florida. Normally, the reptiles steer clear of humans, but attacks do occur on occasion. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, nine attacks were reported in 2015; eight were considered "major" and one was fatal. The animals naturally hunt during the nighttime, usually around dusk. Though Tuesday night's incident was the first to happen in the resort, signs posted near the Seven Seas Lagoon caution visitors not to swim. Walt Disney Resort vice president Jacquee Wahler expressed her deepest condolences for the family:

Everyone here at the Walt Disney 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.

Spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Office Jeff Williamson made a statement on Wednesday morning, stressing that the mission to find the boy will continue over the next several hours. "We are very hopeful," he said. "We are hoping for the best." Earlier that morning, Sheriff Jerry Demings said that although there's hope, scenarios like this can end with the worst:

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.

So far, according to Orlando's WESH 2 News, four alligators have been removed from the lagoon and euthanized. Examiners determined that the gators weren't involved in the attack. The ongoing search involves over 50 people in total, as well as marine units. The lagoon is also being surveyed from the sky for any potential leads.