Employees at the Walt Disney World resort where an alligator killed a 2-year-old boy on June 14 have stated that the animals are common in the area.
Lane Graves was killed after being dragged into the Seven Seas Lagoon, a man-made lake at the Orlando, Florida, resort, by an alligator estimated to be about four to seven feet long.
While signs at the resort cautioned visitors against swimming, there was nothing to warn against the danger posed by alligators, the New York Post reports. Disney stated it will “thoroughly review the situation for the future.”
“There’s gators in the lakes and lagoons here,” a grounds worker at the Grand Floridian Resort Spa said.
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Although he noted the gators rarely came onto land, he warned visitors "should not go into the water.”
Kenneth Krysko, an expert on Florida’s alligators and crocodiles, said he suspected the alligator that attacked Graves may have lost its natural fear of humans, according to The Washington Post. This could have happened because tourists were feeding it.
An estimated 1.3 million alligators are found in Florida in almost every body of water in the state. A removal program is in place in an attempt to protect humans from the animals.
“The success of that is reflected in how rare these events are,” Frank Mazzotti, a professor of wildlife ecology at University of Florida, told The Washington Post. “What this comes down to is the fact that as much as we might like to – and especially for our children – we cannot totally remove risk from life..."
"...Something like this is likely no one’s fault…," Mazzotti continued. "...This is bad luck, unfortunate circumstances.”
Others disagree. While emphasizing he was not familiar with all the details of the case of Lane Graves’ death, Stanford law professor Alan Sykes said Disney could be held liable.
“The hotel owes a duty of care to its customers to take reasonable measures to make the premises safe,” Sykes added. “That would include if there are hidden hazards in a lagoon on the hotel property.”
Matt Morgan, a local attorney with experience of liability cases against theme parks, agreed and said any potential suit would look at a number of important questions.
“What did Disney know about the presence of alligators and when did they know it?," Morgan told The Washington Post. "What protections were in place for these visitors? If Disney knew and did not take steps to warn visitors, they could be liable.”
Disney did not return a request for comment regarding the question of liability.