Disney Land horror saw alligator drag toddler from dad and drown him in lake

A dad reached into the jaws of an alligator in a desperate attempt to save his son who was found dead 17 hours later.

Lane Graves, two, was savagely drowned by a beastly reptile at Disney World's Grand Florida resort in 2016, despite his father's best rescue efforts.

The American toddler's death rocked Disney World which reacted by adding warning signs for guests in and beside waterways at its parks to avoid a repeat of the tragedy.

Alongside the lagoon little Lane died in, is now a boulder wall and elsewhere at the park, a small lighthouse has been installed as a memorial.

Since his death, three others have been killed by an alligator in Florida but not so much as a bite has been reported at Disney, where NYPost reports 250 of the reptiles have been cleared over the past five years.

Five years ago this month, a family holiday to Disney World became a heart-breaking nightmare, as their adorable son was snatched by an alligator.

Parents Matthew, 42, and Melissa, 38, Graves were playing with Lane ten feet beyond "no swimming" signs on June 14 2016, when they burst into action, attempting to free the toddler from a reptile, witnesses said.

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The gator swam off from the beach, forcing Matthew and Melissa to helplessly watch their son get dragged underwater in its jaws, The Sun reports.

One onlooker said terrified Matthew jumped in "and literally trying to fight the gator off".

A massive search operation of Orange County divers found Lane's body intact and only bitten by the deadly beast 17 hours later.

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Clearly not eaten by the predator, Lane was recovered six feet underwater about fifteen yards from where he was taken.

A medical examiner determined that Lane had a traumatic neck injury and drowned, ruling his death was an accident, says Yourfirstvisit.

Sheriff Jerry Demings, who led the hunt, said "there was likely no question… the child was drowned by an alligator".

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The Graves family from Elkhorn, Nebraska, which also included two other children, were on the third day of their holiday at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa when Lane was killed.

A lighthouse statue now stands at the resort as a symbol of the Lane Thomas Graves Foundation which was set up by his parents to help support children who need organ transplants.

In a statement reacting to the memorial, Matthew and Melissa said" “We find comfort that so many people continue to remember our sweet boy, Lane, and we believe the lighthouse stands as a beacon of hope and support for families in the depths of despair.”

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Deby Cassill, the integrative biology associate campus chair at the University of South Florida, told the Orlando Sentinel that the attack happened during alligator mating season.

As waters warm, males look for females and females search for food, NYPost reports.

Cassill also praised Disney's response to the attack which placed barriers on the property and contracts trappers to remove reptiles from its parks.

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She added that removing nuisance gators doesn’t have much of an impact on the overall gator population.

Cassill said: "I don’t see a harm in removing and euthanizing some of the alligators that are in positions to do what they normally do and that is to find food.

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"We want to keep them away from children and pets as much as possible."

Trappers contracted through a state wildlife agency remove the biggest, toothy reptiles from Disney's Florida parks for $30 per gator according to the Orlando Sentinel which reports they are sold for leather and meat.

The Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program says gators shorter than 4 feet are are transferred to alligator farms, animal exhibits and zoos, however those bigger are considered a nuisance and pose a threat to people, pets and property.

Lane’s death was the first alligator attack at the park since eight-year-old Paul Santamaria was bitten in 1986 but managed to resist the beast's attempts to drag him into the water.

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