James Okkerse, 62, was found dead in a Florida Lake and the medical examiner has now confirmed that his death was due to an alligator attack. Okkerse’s death makes this the first fatality in Florida from a alligator attack since 2007. The man was swimming with a friend and after disappearing for a short time in the water, he reemerged face down in the lake.
Visitors to Blue Spring State Park, where Okkerse was swimming, had reported a 12-foot alligator lurking around. These reports came from two different people the day before the man was killed.
According to MSN News on October 23, “questions into the specific circumstances of 61-year-old James Okkerse’s death linger as officials remained closed-mouthed about what park officials did or did not do leading up to the tragedy.” Should they have warned people of the two nearby sightings of that huge gator the day before?
The morning of the attack Russell Anen was swimming with Okkerse and he too questions just what the park officials knew about the gator. The two friends were not told that a huge alligator had been spotted close to the swimming area on Sunday when they arrived on the beach Monday.
According to the Canada Journal, when Anen was swimming with his friend, which they did a few times a week, he couldn’t find Okkerse. He then saw him surface and he looked to be diving because he was face down. Anen said when he went to the area where he saw his friend, he was suddenly gone. It was Anen’s wife, Carol, who reported their friend missing.
If they had been told that an alligator of that size had been sighted the day before, the two men would not have gone swimming, said Anen. They would have turned around and gone home. He also said:
“There should be more information put out there for keeping the park in control rather than things getting out of hand,” he said. “We’re not foolish people. We should have been cautioned, and we probably would have asked for the size of the alligator.”
The park was closed for swimming for one hour on Sunday from about noon until just before 1p.m., after the huge gator was first reported. Park staff hunted for the creature in a canoe, but when finding nothing they reopened the swimming area.
The second sighting of the gator was reported Sunday at 4 p.m., but the swimming was uninterrupted. Monday Okkerse was found dead of an alligator attack and it is most likely the same huge 12-foot gator that was twice reported the day before.
Should the two friends have been told of the huge gator sightings? There is no secret that small gators are in the area, but they don’t get aggressive unless people feed them. This alligator was huge in comparison to the alligators usually seen in the area. Park officials hunted down and then killed the 12-foot alligator.