ORLANDO, Fla. – The parents of a 2-year-old boy who was killed last month by an alligator at a Walt Disney World resort will not sue the entertainment giant.
Matt and Melissa Graves released a statement Wednesday saying that they are establishing a foundation in honor of their son, Lane, who was dragged underwater June 14 in the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
“Melissa and I are broken. We will forever struggle to comprehend why this happened to our sweet baby, Lane. As each day passes, the pain gets worse, but we truly appreciate the outpouring of sympathy and warm sentiments we have received from around the world.
"We know that we can never have Lane back, and therefore, we intend to keep his spirit alive through the Lane Thomas Foundation. It is our hope that through the foundation we will be able to share with others the unimaginable love Lane etched in our hearts. In addition to the foundation, we will solely be focused on the future health of our family and will not be pursuing a lawsuit against Disney. For now, we continue to ask for privacy as we focus on our family.”
Officials said Lane was wading in the water when the alligator snatched him. Matt Graves attempted to rescue his son, but he said another alligator tried to attack him as he went into the water.
Trappers removed several alligators from Disney property after the attack, and Florida wildlife officials said they were confident that the gator that attacked Lane was captured.
Disney also erected fences at its beach resorts in the wake of the boy's death.
"We are installing signage and temporary barriers at our resort beach locations and are working on permanent, long-term solutions at our beaches," Jacquee Wahler, vice president of Walt Disney World Resort, said shortly after the fatal attack.
The frequency of serious, unprovoked alligator bites has grown in Florida along with the state's population, but fatal attacks remain rare. Some things to know about alligators from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
More than 1 million alligators live throughout Florida, though the species remains listed as a protected species because it closely resembles the endangered American crocodile.
Alligators can be found in fresh and brackish bodies of water, including lakes, rivers, canals and golf course ponds, and there are an estimated 6.7 million acres of suitable habitat statewide. Alligator bites are most likely to occur in or around water, because gators aren't well-equipped to capture prey on dry land.
Alligators are opportunistic feeders that will eat what is readily available and easily overpowered. It's illegal to feed wild alligators, which causes them to lose their fear of humans. While gators can lunge at prey along a shoreline, there's no evidence of alligators running after people or other animals on land.
Hides, meat and other parts can be sold from legally harvested alligators. The hides and meat from harvested gators were worth $6.8 million in 2014.
There have been 23 fatalities caused by wild alligators in Florida since 1973, among 383 unprovoked bites not caused by someone handling or intentionally harassing an alligator. Florida averages about seven serious unprovoked bites a year, and officials put the odds of someone being seriously injured by an unprovoked alligator in Florida at roughly one in 2.4 million.
Most of the eight children and 15 adults who were killed by alligators were in freshwater bodies of water. Other victims include a 2-year-old girl, who wandered 700 feet from her fenced backyard, a 3-year-old boy, who left a roped-off swimming area in a county park to pick lily pads, a 36-year-old man swimming across a pond while trying to elude police, a 54-year-old woman seized by an alligator while landscaping near a pond, and an 82-year-old man killed while walking his dog on a path between two wetland areas.
If an alligator bites someone, he or she should make a commotion. Hit or kick the alligator or poke it in its eyes, because alligators will retreat from prey that they can't easily overwhelm.