In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help, Social commentary on July 6, 2016 at 12:17 am




So warns a sign at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Hotel, in Bay Lake, Fla. To drive home the message, it features an eye-catching symbol: A green alligator, its jaws open wide.

Just minutes away lies the Grand Floridian Hotel at Walt Disney World Resort, where, on June 14, a sign read:




It’s likely that the parents of two-year-old Lane Graves wish they had chosen the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Hotel for their vacation spot.

Had they done so, their son might well be alive today.

On June 14, an alligator, estimated at seven feet, snatched Lane as he waded in less than six inches of water at nightfall.

Lane Graves

His father, Matt, rushed into the water to save Lane.  But he was attacked by a second alligator as he fought for his son.  He suffered several bites before the two alligators disappeared into the lagoon.  

The next day, an Orange County Sheriff’s dive team found Lane’s intact body.  

The Graves family, natives of landlocked Omaha, Nebraska, were overwhelmed with grief.

“We are devastated and ask for privacy during this extremely difficult time,” said a statement released by a family friend on June 16.

The Graves family were not the only ones shocked by the lack of an alligator warning at Disney.

Several tourists interviewed at the nearby Hyatt shared similar outrage.

“We didn’t know there weren’t any signs like they have here, ‘Beware of Alligators,'” Hyatt guest Chloe Giles, 21, told PEOPLE. “We thought they had a big sign like they have here: ‘Beware of Alligators.’ “

Three weeks before the fatal snatching of Lane Graves, Dani Saunders, Christopher Spackman and their two young daughters, Charlie and Laila, visited Disney in Orlando, Fla. They stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort, but one night they went to a beach on Bay Lake to watch fireworks.

Grand Floridian Hotel at Walt Disney World Resort 

“It’s the same area that the lagoon goes into,” Saunders said. “And we went at the same time– at 9:30 as the other people were there.”

In a state where the alligator population numbers at more than one million, Florida residents know the dangers and keep small children away from ponds and lakes. But many out-of-state visitors aren’t aware of threat posed by the reptiles.

An official at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stated that May and June are typically mating season for alligators.

The Commission’s executive director, Nick Wiley, announced that his agency had taken and killed five alligators who were suspected of the attack.

Even more damning for Disney, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Disney staff at a nearby resort knew about guests feeding alligators, and had ignored requests to put up a protective fence around the lagoon.

Mike Hamilton, a custodian at the Polynesian Resort Village–a short distance from the Grand Floridian resort–warned his employer that gators were swimming too close to guests and that a protective fence should be erected to keep them at bay.

“The entire property is interconnected via canals so it is difficult to keep [alligators} out of the lakes. Gators are on all of the golf courses. The team attempts to relocate the gators to the uninhabited natural areas as best they can, but the gators don’t understand the boundaries,” former Disney executive Duncan Dickson told the Sentinel.

According to The Wrap, guests at the Polynesian Resort Village–which charges $2,000 and $3,000 per night for a room–commonly feed the alligators.

“Disney has known about the problem of guests feeding the alligators well prior to the opening of the bungalows,” a source told The Wrap.

The day after divers found the body of Lane, Disney announced that it was reviewing its policies about warning signs.

“We are conducting a swift and thorough review of all our processes and protocols,” Walt Disney World Vice President Jacquee Wahler said in a statement on June 16. “This includes the number, placement and working of our signage and warnings.”

Among the changes:

  • “Tick Tock,” the Croc from “Peter Pan,” has been removed from the park’s Festival of Fantasy parade.
  • So has “Louis,” the trumpet-playing alligator from “The Princess and the Frog,” who  was supposed to be part of the Friendship Faire castle show.
  • The Jungle Cruise tour guides will no longer joke about crocodiles eating children as they narrate a boat tour through the world’s rivers.
  • The Kilimanjaro Safari ride has dropped references to a crocodile pit.

This is typically how an incompetent bureaucracy operates:

  • Ignore repeated warnings about a problem that poses a threat to its customers. The reason: To avoid spending money–most of which will otherwise go to the top officials of the company.
  • When the predicted disaster occurs, the company issues a public apology–and makes “security theater” gestures to reassure the public.

There is no word as yet whether the Graves family intends to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Walt Disney World.  But only such a lawsuit–and a huge financial loss–will convince this corporation to make a genuine effort to protect its guests.

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