James Okkerse was killed in alligator attack while swimming in a Florida park and now his friends are requesting a probe into his death, which they believe could have been avoided with a warning. Officials at this state park offered no warning, even though they had two previous reports of a huge alligator in the area the day before and one just before Okkerse went into the water on Monday.
The death of James Okkerse, 61, could have been avoided, suggests his friend, Russell Anen, 73. The two men would often swim together at the Blue Spring State Park in Ocean City, Florida, according to MSN News on October 23.
On Monday Okkerse disappeared in the water while swimming with Anen and when he emerged, he was face down. Before Anen could get to him something pulled him under and he was gone. Okkerse’s body was later located and the wounds he suffered suggested that he had died after being attacked by an alligator. This was later confirmed by the medical examiner’s office.
News 13 reports friends of the swimmer are not satisfied the way earlier reports of that gator were handled. “I want an investigation,” said Russell Anen. He and his wife, Carol, often come to the spring to swim as they did Monday when they lost their friend.
A large alligator had been spotted in the spring on Monday, before Okkerse was attacked. This was confirmed by a Florida Fish and Wildlife officer. There were two sightings of the same 12-foot alligator on Sunday and with the first sighting in the morning park staff closed the park for swimming. They posted “no swimming” for an hour while they looked for the gator.
When they didn’t find the creature, they opened the spring for swimming once again. Another sighting at 4 p.m. on Sunday did not cause any closings. Then when that big gator was spotted lurking in the area on Monday, the folks swimming should have at least been warned, claims Anen.
Anen also said if they had known a gator that big was seen in the spring, they would have turned around and gone home. Okkerse would not have gone into the water and neither would Anen and his wife, the understandably upset friend told the media.
“All they had to do was put a big sign out there saying, ‘Hey, don’t go in the water today. There’s a big gator,’ so we were stupid enough to go in the water without knowing, and it would be a different story,” Carol Anen said.
“That’s what I’m really outraged about; this is a totally unnecessary situation,” Russell Anen added. “I’m really outraged about this, beyond outraged.”
According to MSN News, “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.” The alligator was later found and killed. There is no word if the state will open a probe into this incident or not, as Anen is requesting.