ORLANDO, Fla. - The parents of Lane Graves, the toddler who was grabbed by an alligator at a Disney World resort, released their first statement on the incident Saturday morning.
A spokesperson for the family says Matt and Melissa Graves issued the statement in response to requests for comments.
It reads, in full:
“Melissa and I continue to deal with the loss of our beloved boy, Lane, and are overwhelmed with the support and love we have received from family and friends in our community as well as from around the country. We understand the public’s interest, but as we move forward this weekend, we ask for and appreciate the privacy we need to lay our son to rest. Neither Melissa, myself or anyone from our family will be speaking publicly; we simply cannot at this time.”
Searchers recovered the body of the 2-year-old Nebraska boy Wednesday, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.
“We just met with the family, and spent some time with them, and delivered this update: At about 1:45 p.m. today, members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office dive team located a body, “ said Demings. “There is no reason for us to believe that the body that was recovered is not that of Lane Graves.”
The boy was attacked Tuesday night as he waded in shallow water at the edge of the Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney's Grand Floridian resort.
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Demings identified the boy as Lane Graves of Elkhorn, Nebraska.
The search team grew to 50 people Wednesday as trappers and divers searched Disney's network of man-made canals, ponds and lakes.
At least five other alligators were caught and examined.
“This is a tough situation,” Demings said. “Disney is doing everything they can to make the family comfortable during this ordeal."
The child was wading in the lagoon when the alligator struck. His father, Matt Graves, jumped in to rescue him but couldn't wrench the boy away from the animal, Orange County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jeff Williamson said.
“The father entered the water and tried to grab the child. (He) was not successful in doing so. At some point, I'm told, the mother may have also entered the water. So the parents diligently tried to get the child. They alerted a nearby lifeguard who was there in the area as well, but they were unsuccessful in that effort,” said Demings.
Matt Graves received minor injuries in the struggle, Williamson said. The mother, Melissa Graves and her other two children were not injured.
Demings said "it was a tough message to deliver" to Matt and Melissa Graves, that their child is dead.
The family express that they were grateful for the public’s thoughts and prayers during their difficult time, Demings said.
“We are being sensitive to the needs of the family,” Demings said.
“Disney has operated here for 45 years and this has never happened here before,” said Demings. “Disney has a wildlife management system that is in place. It’s designed to remove any potential threats.”
“There are no words to convey the profound sorrow we feel for the family and their unimaginable loss. We are devastated and heartbroken by this tragic accident and are doing what we can to help the family during this difficult time. On behalf of everyone at Disney, we offer our deepest sympathies.” - George A. Kalogridis, President, Walt Disney World Resort.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Nick Wiley said a handful of alligators had been pulled from the lagoon so far.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, " said Nick Wiley, FWC.
Gator attacks are very rare, Wiley said, adding that his office works closely with Disney to remove nuisance alligators when they are sighted.
“There are signs that say, ‘No swimming in the water.’ The other question was, what size is the alligator? It’s been described as can be anywhere from four feet to six or seven feet. It’s not precisely known what size the alligator is at this time,” said Demings.
A medical examiner has custody of the body of Lane Graves, and an autopsy will be performed.
The sheriff said five gators were captured and killed during the search, and there's a good chance that one of them is the killer, but a forensic investigation will continue to make sure.
Walt Disney World shut down beaches at all its resorts Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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