Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Disney Ignored Alligator Complaint Last Year. "Not to Worry, They're Like Pets"

If true, San Diego lawyers story could open Disney to punitive damages.

 

According to CBS News, a San Diego father who chased an alligator away from his five year old son last year at Disney World in Orlando, has been interviewed. He said he told resort officials, and they responded that he "should not worry, because the alligators are tame as pets."

In April of 2015, San Diego lawyer David Hiden took his family to the theme park. His five-year-old son waded calf-deep into a lagoon behind their hotel.

"I saw something rapidly coming on like a submarine," Hiden told CBS News. "And I look and I went, 'Oh my god. That's an alligator.' And it was probably about six to seven feet."

Hiden whisked his son to safety -- and spotted a second alligator lurking nearby. But a year earlier, Hiden says he warned a hotel manager, and even showed her a photo he took of one of the gators.

The family was staying at Disney World's Coronado Springs Resort, which is three-and-a-half miles from the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, where two year-old Lane was killed.

"And the response, I couldn't believe it," Hiden said. "It was, 'Those are resident pets, and we've known about them for years. And they're harmless, they're not going to attack anybody. . . . but I told them one day, one of your resident pets is going to kill somebody!"

Legally speaking Hiden's story is significant, because it shows Disney had notice of the defective condition--dangerous animals on their resort. Since they did not ameliorate the condition, their potential legal liability is much greater.

Updated Lane Graves, the 2-year-old boy who witnesses said was pulled by an alligator into a lagoon near a Walt Disney World hotel last night has been found drowned. His parents have been identified as Nat and Melissa Graves, of Elkhorn, Nebraska. They have released his photo, which is below.

Rescue teams initially hoped to find the boy alive, but officials now say the attack was "not survivable." Authorities euthanized 5 alligators that they found in the lagoon, one of which they believe, was in fact the alligator who attacked Lane.

Walt Disney Resort temporarily shuttered its resort beach areas and recreational marinas following the gator attack. Since 1948, Florida has had 383 attacks on human beings, with 23 deaths. Meaning a person dies about every 3 years from an alligator attack in Florida. Disney world has never had an alligator attack before, in its 45 year history.

The boy was "playing" in the water when the alligator snatched and dragged him into the lake, officials said. The attack occurred around 9:15 p.m. Eyewitnesses saw the child grabbed by the alligator, Demings said.

Nat Graves entered the water and tried to grab the child from the gator, but was not successful, Demings said. The family is still in the area because the coroner isn't yet finished comparing aLligator teeth marks to the wounds on Lane Graves' BODY.

The boy's parents then alerted a nearby lifeguard that an alligator had attacked the boy. Witnesses estimated the alligator was between 4 and 7 feet in length

A little boy named Channing Vendetti standing by the Seven Seas Lagoon, moments before an Alligator snatched little Lane Graves.

"Everyone here at the Walt Disney World 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," Jacquee Wahler, vice president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement. Disney stock is apparently unaffected by the tragedy, since it's up slightly today.

Dozens of rescue crews -- including the Florida Fish and Wildlife, Reedy Creek Fire Rescue and the Orange County Sheriff's Office –- helped search the lake with sonar equipment. Experienced alligator trappers were also brought in to help with the recovery effort, officials said.

In the end, the boy was found nor more than 15 feet from the last place his parents saw him, playing at the edge of the lagoon.

 

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