Death at Disney: Who’s Responsible?

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While the recent Disney gator attack on two-year old Lane Graves is a tragedy most of us cannot even imagine, who’s really at fault?

No one wants to take responsibility for any of their actions in these highly litigious days. Everyone’s looking for someone else to blame, to take the heat for their personal actions – whether careless – or not.

It was nine o’clock at night. I know people were on Disney’s beach waiting for a free movie to begin, but why were the parents of two-year old Lane even there at that hour?

I questioned some friends of mine who have little ones and they all said the same exact thing: “By 9 PM when we’re on vacay, our kids are fast asleep, right where they should be. Regardless.”

Some say that Disney didn’t do enough to warn guests. That the “No Swimming” signs just aren’t adequate. But what kind of sign would be fair warning enough?? Since those “No Swimming, Please,” signs didn’t do the trick, what do you think would?

I’d like to quote Pam Dowdle Scruggs’ comment about this situation from an Independent Journal article: ‪”Only one of the big bodies of water is man made, the other one has been there from the beginning. Nature made. There is no reason that WDW shouldn't have water on the property. Welcome to Florida, there are gators everywhere. WDW is built on a swamp, if you wanted to get rid of all the gators, then WDW wouldn't exist where it does. I'm in no way blaming the parents, it was a horrible accident. I guess those of us in Florida know the danger and I don't think that WDW should change anything except maybe more signs, but unfortunately people seem to ignore all signs.”

And how many kids would mistake this gator picture for a cartoon, think it’s funny and not be aware of the danger lurking mere feet away.

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I know! How about a picture of a gator with a screaming human clamped in its jaws, arms and legs wildly flailing about, encircled with the red international prohibition sign warning all to stay out of the water. But I’ll bet even that wouldn’t get people to pay attention. Trust me.

Just this past weekend, a bit north of Chicago, a young man drowned in Lake Michigan. There were several “No Swimming” signs posted and even stenciled onto the breakwater rock wall the boys were diving from. Did the warning signs stop them?

Most of the time, such signs do no good anyway . . . it seems everyone challenges authority these days, and some often pay for that challenge with their lives . . .

Why Disney and the public should not assume that gators prey in their lakes and waterways where there are all manner of nature’s critters living in their own natural habitat is beyond me. And a good third of Disney’s Florida property is actually a wildlife conservation area. However, WDW does have an “open permit” to get rid of “nuisance” gators, and they do so routinely.

But here's a News Flash for you: The alligators were there first. They’re everywhere in Florida. They’re a fact of life. It’s estimated that up to 2 million gators live in Florida waterways

Alligators are exquisite, ambush predators, very efficient at searching for prey. They’re nocturnal hunters, striking without discrimination, and water is their realm.

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So, if you’re in Florida, whether living or visiting – it’s wise to have a healthy respect for all bodies of water, lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, even culverts and ditches – there could be a gator lurking. And even though gator attacks are considered a rare occurrence, since 1948, 23 people have been killed by gators. Now it’s 24.

Another problem, people feed the gators and they think it’s funny, even exciting and dangerous. Those prehistoric, pea-brained creatures can’t distinguish between a two-year old kid and a steak. All they know is that they’re hungry, there’s food ripe for the picking . . . and they can unpredictably pounce.

You could say Florida is really built on shaky ground. It’s one giant mangrove swamp, a colossal aquifer covered by humanity and urban sprawl. There are zillions of underground waterways, rivers, creeks and streams that wildlife use to migrate around looking for food.

There is no way the Florida authorities will ever be able to rid the state of alligators. Gators love water and Florida is surrounded by and built on water.

We must let little Lane’s death serve as a warning to others. Beware. Stay away, especially at night when those nocturnal critters can see you better than you can see them.

While this is a horrific tragedy and our hearts go out to Lane’s parents and family – it’s also an accident. And “accident” means it was “a sudden event that is not planned or intended and that causes damage or injury.”

I don’t think Disney’s responsible, nor liable for this accident. It’s Mother Nature’s work just as if the child was struck by lightening on that same WDW beach.

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