This one is hard to believe. Disney, one of the savviest PR enterprises in the world, has alligators roaming in the lagoons on its property in the vicinity of guests. Yesterday, the worst happened when a toddler was snatched by an alligator while he was playing at the edge of the Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. This afternoon, the toddler’s body was recovered by searchers, but so far not the killer alligator.
This is a tragedy beyond words, and one that should never have happened. A Disney spokesperson said there were “no swimming” signs posted in the area, but the toddler wasn’t swimming. Apparently there were no “beware of alligators” signs, so a natural question is what was being done to protect guests from an attack like this?
At least five alligators were caught and euthanized in an effort to find the alligator that killed the little boy, so this was not a case of a single rogue alligator that somehow made its way onto the grounds.
A few weeks prior to this incident, another family reportedly encountered an alligator at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, which is in the same vicinity, and informed a security officer.
In an interview with the Palm Beach Post, Nick Wiley with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission said that Disney has worked “diligently” to keep visitors from being “unduly exposed,” but he added that preventing alligators from coming on to Disney property is futile.
Really? There’s no barrier or other control method to keep alligators off Disney resort property? Then how about some signs specifically warning about the presence of alligators so that visitors aren’t unduly caught off guard? And how about some extra security in the tourist areas where alligators have been spotted? These would seem like prudent measures—unless Disney was concerned that warning guests in “the happiest place on earth” would scared some of them off.
I suspect that Disney will take some additional protective actions, including adding warning signs, but it’s too late for this family. My prayers are with them.
Beyond this personal tragedy, the Disney brand has been severely tarnished. If Disney really can’t protect its guests from alligator attacks, and the company failed to warn them of the potential danger, guests will inevitably wonder what else may not be safe there and what else they’re not being warned about.
Broken trust is hard to overcome, and the horrific nature of this incident is not something that people are going to forget.
Walt Disney World will continue to provide a world-class entertainment experience for families, but this fatal alligator attack has forever altered the company’s image.