The pictures at Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney World were taken about at 8:45 p.m. Tuesday. Lane Graves was taken and killed at 9:30 p.m.

By Dave Quinn
June 16, 2016 01:30 PM
Courtesy Jennifer Venditti

brightcove.createExperiences(); A Massachusetts mom has posted chilling photos of her 3-year-old son splashing in the water in the same spot where an alligator attacked and killed toddler Lane Graves at Walt Disney World – pictures that she believes were taken just minutes before tragedy struck.

Jennifer Venditti Roye tells PEOPLE she is sharing the photos because she wants to stop the online parent-shaming of Lane’s mom and dad. Her point is that she had no reason to believe it was dangerous for her son to wade into a few inches of water, despite the “No Swimming” signs.

“There is a time to be critical when parents are doing drugs and their children get hurt,” Venditti Roye tells PEOPLE. “But this is just not the time. It’s heartbreaking”

“It could have been [my son],” Venditti Roye adds. “We had been there every night. What a tragedy.”

Venditti Roye snapped photos of son Channing at the edge of the water in the man-made Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa on Tuesday night. The photos were taken about 8:45 p.m. before they headed up to their hotel room for bed.

Courtesy Jennifer Venditti

According to authorities, 2-year-old Lane was reportedly in one foot of water about 9:30 p.m. when he was grabbed by an alligator and dragged under water. His father ran into the lagoon and tried to fight the predator off, but was unsuccessful.

Divers found Lane’s body, mostly intact, about 18 hours later, not far from the area where he was dragged under.

Venditti Roye, a 41-year-old mother of three, said her son had been running back and forth throughout the evening between the lagoon and the resort’s splash-pad water slide, which was a few feet away. It was a typical behavior by the kids in the small lagoon.

“Not at all did that cross my mind that there would be alligators in that area,” Venditti Roye says. “There were tons of families just roasting marshmallows. The Grand Floridian had provided the activity for kids, right there on the beach.”

“And the water was just ankle deep. Where that beach is – it’s a small cove, so central, with the resort area built around it. There’s a pool nearby. It’s well-lit. Well-traveled. Not off the beaten path where you think anything would be lurking. I never would have dreamed in a million years that there would have been an alligator there.”

She says the area wasn’t crowded before the attack. Families were spread out – most kids, like hers, moving back and forth between the lagoon, the splash pad and the adjacent pool. “It’s a very small area,” Venditti Roye says. “You could actually sit at one of the chairs and watch your child run from [each area], and that’s what a lot of people were doing.”

Jennifer Venditti Roye and son Channing
Courtesy Jennifer Venditti

Venditti Roye says the resort’s high standards made her feel safe. “They dot all their i’s and cross all their t’s,” she explains. “They pay attention to every detail.”

“The lifeguards are right there,” Venditti Roye continues. “They are definitely well-trained. At that splash pad earlier I went down the slide with , the life guard politely asked me not to do that as it was for children only 38″ and under. So they have rules, and the employees are on top of everything.”

The early departure for Venditti Roye and her young son from the area was a stroke of good luck. The Grand Floridian had an outdoor movie night – a showing of Disney’s hit Zootopia – and the two had planned on staying to watch the flick.

But Channing, who hadn’t taken a nap earlier in the day, told his mom he was tired. “Which was shocking because what child wants to go to bed?,” Venditti Roye says. “That never happens at my household anyway.”

She adds that she felt lucky her other children didn’t attend the trip. “Had my 6-year-old daughter been there, or even my 5-year-old son, we would have been [at the lagoon].”

Despite not being there at the time of the attack, Venditti Roye finds no fault with the parents.

“These people that were saying the parents weren’t watching him? You know, negligence?” she addresses. “Well, I usually have three small children in tow. This time I was blessed to have just one. With one, with my undivided attention because I don’t know anybody there and it’s just he and I, I still chose to let him in that water and play. ‘Stand there a little longer let me take some more pretty pictures.’ I consider myself a consciousness parent and I allowed my child to do that same thing right before that same incident, never thinking that an alligator might be in that central area.”

Channing Venditti Roye
Courtesy Jennifer Venditti

Disney officials said on Wednesday that they “routinely” pull alligators from the lagoon. Disney has posted “No Swimming” signs, but makes no mention of alligators. Rescue teams and alligator hunters captured four of the predators in the lagoon Tuesday night and Wednesday as they searched for the killer that snatched Lane.

In a Facebook post that has garnered nearly 150,000 shares, Venditti Roye recounted the story and shared the pictures of Channing in the area.

“I can’t help but wonder if we played with him,” she wrote. “Did I talk to his Mom? How does one go home without your baby in tow? PRAY, PRAY so hard for the family & for those who witnessed this tragic event.”

Advertisement



EDIT POST