By Melissa Chan
August 22, 2016

The father of a 2-year-old boy killed by an alligator at a Walt Disney World resort earlier this summer reached into the animal’s mouth and grabbed its teeth to try to free his son from the grips of the gator’s jaw, officials said in a new report Monday.

Matt Graves told authorities his son, Lane Graves, was making sand castles near the water’s edge at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort about 8:30 p.m. on June 14 when an alligator bit the boy’s head and dragged him into the water, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s final investigative report on the incident.

The boy’s father, who was standing nearby, put his hands inside the alligator’s mouth, but that only caused the roughly 8-foot reptile to briefly struggle before it broke loose and vanished into deeper water with the child, the commission said.

Lane Graves, who was about 37 inches tall and weighed about 30 pounds, was standing in ankle-deep water, fetching a bucket of water for his sand castle, right before the attack. “I saw it come out to get him,” Matt Graves told investigators, according to the report. The father’s efforts to save his son failed after the gator “just took off” after, he said.

A patrol officer found the body of the missing child the following day in the large man-made lagoon, submerged in about 7 feet of water near where the attack happened.

The child suffered injuries to his head and neck, officials said. A medical examiner deemed the death an accident.

Six alligators were later captured from the area and were euthanized, although officials say it’s unclear if the gator that killed the toddler is one of them. “While we cannot say with absolute certainty that the subject animal has been taken, we are confident that the evidence gathered shows it is very likely that one of the two females captured close to the attack location was the offending animal,” the report said. Two of the animals had empty stomachs, which officials say indicate that the lagoon gators’ “drive for food would be strong.”

“We continue to pray for the Graves family,” FWC Director Nick Wiley said in a statement. “Our agency will continue to work to keep families informed on how they can safely enjoy all that Florida has to offer.”

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