By Laila Kearney
(Reuters) – Mourners gathered at a Nebraska church on Tuesday to remember a two-year-old boy who was grabbed and drowned by an alligator while vacationing with his family last week at the Disney World Resort in Florida, a church official said.
The private service for Lane Graves at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in the Omaha suburb of Elkhorn, came a week after his death captured international attention and called into question how Disney handles the risk from alligators at the resort.
“We ask that you pray for this family and respect their privacy as they go through such a devastating event,” St. Patrick’s Parish said in a statement on its website.
The church, which held a prayer service for Graves on Sunday and then a wake on Monday, is accepting donations to benefit the boy’s family, who live in Elkhorn.
The church asked mourners to tie royal blue ribbons around trees “to show your love and support” for the Graves family.
A church official confirmed that the funeral began at 10 a.m. Central Time, but declined to give more details.
The alligator snatched the toddler last Tuesday night as he played at the edge of the Seven Seas Lagoon, a manmade lake at the Walt Disney Co <DIS.N> resort.
The boy’s parents, who were relaxing on the white sand shore nearby, sprang into action in a failed attempt to pry their child from the predator’s grip.
A lifeguard who was on duty was unable to reach the boy before the alligator swam away with him.
Police divers found Lane’s body underwater the following afternoon, not far from where he was taken. An autopsy found that the cause of death was drowning and traumatic injuries.
At the time, the resort had “No Swimming” signs that did not mention alligators. Disney has since installed signs by the lagoon warning guests of alligators and snakes.
“Danger! Alligators and snakes in area,” read the new signs, which feature diagrams of the two animals. “Stay away from the water. Do not feed the wildlife.”
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Daniel Wallis and David Gregorio)