Boy Dragged Into Water by Alligator at Disney World: Who Is At Fault?

A  boy who was two years old was with his father at the beach of the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa at Walt Disney World in Florida when a large alligator reportedly snatched him and dragged him into the water, according to accounts of this story from multiple sources.

The father of three children entered the water and unsuccessfully attempted to rescue his son from the alligator.

At the time of this article, search and rescue teams were still attempting to find the boy, who traveled to Walt Disney World with his family from Nebraska.

Boy Dragged Into Water by Alligator at Disney World: Who Is At Fault?

There has been vociferous debate amongst readers of multiple articles pertaining to this story, with several thoughts as to who exactly was at fault in this incident.

Were the parents at fault? Signs are posted at the beach of the lagoon — which is part of a man-made lake which has canals feeding into it — warning people not to swim in the water. There have been conflicting reports of whether the boy was on the beach itself or wading in water which was approximately a foot deep.

Was Walt Disney World at fault? Were the signs warning swimmers not to swim enough to keep people out of danger? Should Walt Disney World have been more proactive about preventing people from entering the water? Was the resort negligent in adequately protecting its guests?

Was this simply an unfortunate incident? With travel, there are risks — even when those risks are not expected; and especially when the risks are extremely rare. Is this incident merely an anomaly of humans coexisting with wildlife?

Alligator Statistics in Florida

According to this article of the official Internet web site of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “Alligators have inhabited Florida’s marshes, swamps, rivers and lakes for many centuries, and are found in all 67 counties.”

This document from the same source explains that the chances of being killed by an alligator are quite low: “Although most Floridians understand that we have alligators living in our state, the potential for conflict exists. Because of their predatory nature, alligators may target pets and livestock as prey. Unfortunately, people also are occasionally bitten. Since 1948, Florida has averaged about five unprovoked bites per year. During that period, a little more than 300 unprovoked bites to people have been documented in Florida, with 22 resulting in deaths.”

Hopefully, the unidentified boy will not become statistic number 23.

The aforementioned document goes on to say that “In the past 10 years, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has received an average of nearly 16,000 alligator-related complaints per year. Most of these complaints deal with alligators occurring in places such as backyard ponds, canals, ditches and streams, but other conflicts occur when alligators wander into garages, swimming pools and golf course ponds. Sometimes, alligators come out of the water to bask in the sun or move between wetlands. In many cases, if left alone, these alligators will eventually move on to areas away from people.”

Summary

The best way to deal with nature is to simply leave it alone — for many reasons. I personally have never been stung by a bee or a wasp because I do not panic or attempt to attack when one is near me. I also do not venture too close to wild animals simply because they prefer to be left alone. If I want to view them up close — as I did when I was on safari in Kenya last year — I have my trusty camera to not only assist me; but also to capture images of animals for me to view later whenever I want.

Of course, leaving nature alone is by no means foolproof. If a wild animal is hungry and sees a small human being as prey, it cannot reason to leave it alone. It will simply go after its prey to kill and eat it…

…but there are still many unanswered questions to this incident — including but not limited to whether or not the father was properly supervising his son; whether they were definitively in the water or on the beach itself; and whether the beach — all beaches are currently closed at Walt Disney World until further notice — should have been open to guests at all.

Guests of Walt Disney World expect to be completely safe, as it is a more controlled environment than — say — a safari in Africa. While an admirable goal, is 100 percent safety a realistic expectation?

Parents are expected to protect their children while traveling in general; and frequent fliers have long complained that some parents take little to no responsibility in caring for their children. Some people may be quick to jump to the conclusion that this incident occurred as the fault of the father — but is that really the case?

I personally believe in general that parents should supervise their children as best as possible and that major companies should protect their customers as best as possible — whether or not the parents and customers are traveling — but there also has to be a realistic balance of managed expectations, as there is no way that every single danger or hazard can be anticipated. Everything we do involves risk; and the probability of being killed by an alligator in Florida — before the occurrence of this incident — is fewer than one death every three years amongst the millions of residents and tourists which visit Florida every year.

My thoughts and prayers are with the family of the boy, whom I hope will be found and emerge from this incident alive and relatively unscathed. I cannot even imagine the horror through which the parents are currently enduring…

Imagery ©2016 TerraMetrics. Map data ©2016 courtesy of Google Maps.

16 thoughts on “Boy Dragged Into Water by Alligator at Disney World: Who Is At Fault?”

  1. Michael says:

    Clearly, at a Walt Disney World Resort — with no sign saying “ALIGATORS NEARBY – STAY CLEAR OF LAGOON” — there is huge liability here.

    I suspect Disney will settle this quickly — and for millions! — and quietly.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Sadly, you may be correct, Michael.

    2. Zu says:

      There were signs

      1. Rebecca Smith says:

        Did they say “stay far away from the edge of the water because Alligators in the lagoon will eat your children” ?? If not, the signs were worth precisely NOTHING.

        Check the reports of alligator attacks in the world and you will understand that people and animals at the EDGE of the water are in just as much danger as those who go into the water.

  2. speaking as a human, and not a lawyer, I say its just too sad to think about fault and liability at this moment. As a lawyer though, I’d say that, given the risks involved perhaps more than a “no swimming” sign was required – – perhaps even a fence. Honestly, I don’t know enough about the facts to give a reasoned opinion – but it is heartbreaking regardless.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I completely agree with you, Kathy (Will Run For Miles).

      Thank you.

    2. Rebecca Smith says:

      If they knew the risks, and undoubtedly they did, they should never have built that man-made lagoon to begin with if they knew they would be unable to keep alligators from coming onto the property and into the lake. I cannot BELIEVE they were too cheap to build a fence that could stop alligators from entering the park. How hard could it be to build a deep concrete foundation into the ground and something solid or strong enough connected to it above ground to keep alligators OUT??

      They can afford it !

  3. Captain Kirk says:

    If there were signs that indicated “no swimming” or “alligators in lagoon” or “no swimming because there are alligators in the lagoon” then it is 100% the parent’s fault. If there were no signs, then WDW will be held at least partially liable. My personal take is why was a 2 year old not only up at 10PM when this happened but standing in a lagoon? The child should have been in bed, or at the very least, not standing in a lagoon at 10PM. It is tragic and unfortunate, but the liability lies with the parents. You can’t fault an alligator for snatching something in its home. People love to think the alligators are a “nuisance” but in reality, it was their habitat LONG before it was “your” amusement park. Common sense people, don’t let your 2 year old kid in a lake at night, alligators or not, it isn’t a good idea.

    1. AMJ says:

      Maybe you’ve never been to Walt Disney World, but it is not unusual for kids to be up that late (it was actually 9:30pm, not 10pm) while they are there. The child may have taken a long, late nap for all we know, but really, that is none of our business and not relevant.

      As for why they were in the area, I can give you a couple of reasons. They were having a “beach movie” in the area that night where they put up an inflatable screen and encourage families to hang out and watch the movie. This was also around the time that Wishes (Magic Kingdom fireworks) would have been concluding and it is very popular to watch them from the GF and Polynesian beaches. There is also a water parade around that time on the Seven Seas Lagoon.

      The signage in the area states “no swimming.” Personally, I would never let my kids put a toe in that water (in addition to alligators that water is full of dangerous bacteria), but I’ve seen a lot of arguments today stating that “swimming” and “wading” are two different things. There is no signage indicating alligators. I would assume that this is deliberate because WDW does want to portray itself as the “happiest place on earth” and alligators don’t usually add into that equation.

    2. Sarah S says:

      I agree with you Captain Kirk. I live in Florida and have two small children; in the 5 years I’ve lived here, I don’t even allow them to walk close to the water’s edge! I have been called paranoid, but gators are known to snatch up what is small, such as pets and small children. However, considering they’re from another state, they may not have known how high that risk is. I moved from the Midwest and didn’t know that much about alligators until I moved to Florida. But in regards to it saying “no swimming” there is where I really don’t understand why the child was allowed to go in the water at all.

    3. Rebecca Smith says:

      YOU don’t know that they WERE swimming, so why are you acting like you KNOW something that no one else knows? At the time you posted your comment there has been absolutely NO information released as to whether the family was standing near or actually in the lagoon. SINCE that baby was only 2 years old EVEN IF they were standing IN ‘the lagoon’ they may very well have been standing in no more than a few inches of water, like to get their feet wet. Right at the edge of the lagoon, PRECISELY like people with 2 year olds will do after a long hot day in the sun in Orlando Florida- oh that safe looking white sandy beached shallow lagoon water would be very tempting indeed – something called AN ATTRACTIVE NUISANCE – something so tempting you have to put a fence around it or be held liable if anyone comes onto your personal private property to get to it, and for some reason dies or is seriously injured.

      THIS WAS NOT A RANDOM DARK CREEPY LAKE IN THE MIDDLE OF A FOREST, PEOPLE! IT’S A BEAUTIFUL CLEAN MAN -MADE WHITE SANDY BEACH ”LAGOON” INSIDE AN AMUSEMENT PARK BUILT FOR SMALL CHILDREN!!! DON’T ACT LIKE IT’S IMPOSSIBLE AND YOU WOULD HAVE NEVER THOUGHT TO STAND ANKLE DEEP IN SOME WATER LIKE THAT YOU LIARS !!!!
      TO SOMEONE who doesn’t live in Florida, it probably looks like the safest water in the world and they know it’s not something made by nature & ‘full of nature’ – why in HELVETE would they think AN ALLIGATOR would be there??

      WHY IN HEAVEN OR ON EARTH would ANY PARENT BELIEVE STANDING NEAR THE EDGE OF A LAGOON OR IN A FEW INCHES of WATER at the PERIMETER OF A LAGOON IN DISNEY WORLD, COULD EVER, EVER POSSIBLY EVER RESULT IN THE DEATH OF THEIR CHILD BY WILD ANIMAL ATTACK???

      FFS they were at Disney World! Would you even try to make your children go to bed at a normal hour if you had been at Disney World all day? GOOD LUCK WITH THAT! CLEARLY you don’t have any kids or you wouldn’t say something that ridiculously ignorant! If this had happened on a school night to a school age child who wasn’t on vacation and maybe should have been at home in bed, then MAYBE you could say something about what time kids ‘should’ be in bed, you jack-in-the-box!
      HOW DARE YOU BLAME THOSE PEOPLE FOR HAVING THEIR BABY UP LATER THAN YOU FEEL IS APPROPRIATE – HOW DARE YOU BLAME THOSE PEOPLE FOR STANDING NEAR OR JUST WITH THEIR FEET IN THE WATER OF THAT LAGOON AT THE END OF A DAY IN DISNEY WORLD!! I’M SURPRISED THIS HASN’T HAPPENED 50 TIMES!

      ALLIGATORS POP OUT OF THAT WATER’S EDGE AND GRAB SMALL ANIMALS, CHILDREN, and yes EVEN ADULTS! IN THE FLASH OF AN EYE THEY ARE GONE!!!
      I HAVEN’T READ A SINGLE THING SAYING THAT THEY WERE ACTUALLY IN THE WATER – BUT WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE??? STANDING AT THE EDGE OR A FEW INCHES INSIDE THE EDGE OF THE WATER SHOULD NOT MAKE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIFE OR DEATH FOR YOUR CHILD!

      AND BTW – I read about a 2 or 3 year old boy who was swimming with his mother and his older sibling in a regular lake, in the early afternoon full daylight – all the way UP OVER IN ARKANSAS STATE – and that baby was taken away by an alligator, there was nothing anyone could do – they found his little body all jammed up inside that alligator nest the next day. The time of day is not relevant to this case, that alligator could have snatched a child at any time of day. The mother in Arkansas had not reason to believe there was a single alligator in Arkansas, the parents at disneyworld had no reason to believe an alligator was luring in the waters of a disney made lagoon!

      AS FAR AS I’M CONCERNED DISNEY IS 100% FULLY RESPONSIBLE EVEN IF THEY HAD A GIANT NEON SIGN FLOATING 4 FEET ABOVE THE GROUND THAT SAID ‘WATER IS FULL OF CHILD EATING ALLIGATORS’ – BECAUSE IT’S DISNEYWORLD!!

      THERE SHOULDN’T BE ANY PEOPLE EATING ALLIGATORS INSIDE THE FENCE! THEY MAKE ENOUGH G.Dmnd MONEY TO BUILD FENCES ALLIGATORS CAN’T CRAWL UNDER OR THROUGH in an area known as ALLIGATOR COUNTRY! THEY KNOW THE RISKS, AND DON’T YOU THINK EVEN FOR A SECOND that THEIR TEAM OF A MILLION SOULLESS LAWYERS DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT EVERY INCIDENT OF ALLIGATOR ATTACKS IN RANDOM BODIES OF WATER IN THE AREA EVEN BEFORE THEY BUILT THAT LAGOON!

      They more than likely calculated the COST of the eventual risk that a death might occur AGAINST the amount of revenue generated by the lagoon!! YA FEEL ME?? What’s a FEW MILLION dollars they might throw at the family, compared to the 500 MILLION of revenue generated by the presence of the lagoon?? THAT’S HOW MUCH THEY CARE ABOUT KIDS!

  4. mike murphy says:

    they have security in place to keep non paying persons out, but not alligators? Hmmm!

  5. Jim says:

    All the news says dragged but nothing about not found or killed or anything like that. Was the child killed and never found after the animal dragged it in to the water?

  6. DJ says:

    use your observation and judgement and hope for God’s mercy each day, no amount of signs & liability prevention will help enough. people will follow ignorance and crowd, that never changes.

  7. Jim says:

    In 1986 an 8 year old boy was attacked by an alligator at Fort wilderness campground at Disney World. Luckily he survived. The family sued because there no warning signs. Thirty years later Disney World has not installed alligator warning signs. I live On the coast and at our golf courses and in our parks there are alligator warning signs by all bodies of water.

    Disney created a man made lake, they created a gently sloped beach covered in white sand leading into the lake. (Google Grand Floridian beach to see photos) They know they have a problem. They chose not to warn their guests. As a hotel operator they are responsible for their guest’s safety.

  8. A says:

    The parents shouldn’t have let the kid in the water, but it is unlikely that they knew or thought of the alligator risks if there was no sign specifically indicating them. They are from Nebraska, far from gator country, and it probably never crossed their mind that alligators posed a risk, especially at Disneyworld.

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