James Okkerse was killed by a 12-foot alligator killed at Blue Spring State Park in Florida. The 62-year-old man was reported missing after going snorkeling in the morning house. The alligator attack, which occurred in Volusia County, Florida, was the first such fatality since 2007.
Okkerse was swimming and snorkeling in an area of Blue Spring State Park, which is extremely popular for manatee spotting in the fall and winter months. The swimmer was killed by the 12-foot alligator just two days after reports that such a massive reptile was spotted in the river.
— Orlando Sentinel (@orlandosentinel) October 22, 2015
The details surrounding the death of Okkerse, 61, are few and far between. Questions about the specific set of circumstances leading up to the fatal alligator attack remain, MSN reports.
The swimmer’s body was pulled from the water on Monday, after James Okkerse was spotted floating face down. The wounds to the body reportedly indicated that a gator killed the swimmer, Blue Spring State Park officials said. Carol Okkerse, James’ wife, called 911 to report her spouse had not returned to the beach area after taking a swim upstream toward the natural spring, where manatees congregate in the winter.
Okkerse’s wife and friends had reported him missing several hours earlier. A full autopsy report is expected to be completed and released in approximately six to eight weeks. Russell Anen, 73, a friend of the swimmer killed by an alligator, is now questioning the Florida state park policies, which he feels may have contributed to the of Okkerse.
Anen, who had also gone swimming in the same waters, maintains he and his friends had not been told about the sightings of the 12-foot-alligator when they arrived at state park on Monday. The visitors, who live only three miles away, would have turned around and gone home if they had known, according to Anen.
“There should be more information put out there for keeping the park in control rather than things getting out of hand,” Anen added. “We’re not foolish people. We should have been cautioned, and we probably would have asked for the size of the alligator.”
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) October 20, 2015
Anen is requesting that all alligators be “removed” from the swimming area for safety reasons.
“I just want things done that are right for Jim and the other people that attend the park. I just want to make sure safety measures are in place,” the friend of the swimmer killed in alligator attack said.
The Blue Spring State Park swimming area was closed for only about one hour after the 12-foot alligator was spotted on Sunday afternoon. Staffers reportedly searched the water by canoe and on foot along the shore, but did not see the gator. The same alligator was believed to have been spotted around 4 p.m. the same day.
Jennifer Burroughs, 30, and her family were visiting the Florida state park the day the gator killed the swimmer. Burroughs told local reporters that the James Okkerse alligator attack scared her, but the group had already incurred travel expenses and had booked a cabin at the state park, so they decided to stay.
“We booked it, we’re doing it, we’re committed,” Burroughs told reporters as she put several small children into a float and placed them into the water. “I feel like I’m going to be on the lookout now. I know what happened, so I’m going to be looking out.”
A sign along the boardwalk of the St. John’s River informs visitors that alligators could be present in the area.
“Large alligators occasionally attack larger animals such as deer, and may even attack humans,” the sign reportedly reads.
The James Okkerse alligator attacks brings to a close the longest time span without a fatal alligator attack in Florida. The second longest fatality-free period ran from 1979 to 1983. Since 1948, a total of 22 recorded fatal alligator attacks in Florida, and 338 non-fatal attacks, have occurred.
The 12-foot alligator that killed the swimmer has since been captured and killed, the Daily Mail reports.
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