ORANGE CITY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Authorities say a swimmer found dead at Blue Spring State Park on Monday morning had wounds consistent with an alligator attack. James Okkerse, 62, was snorkeling with two friends, when suddenly he disappeared under the water. One minute they say he was there, the next he was gone.
Carol Anen says she and her husband were snorkeling with Okkerse when her husband spotted a large alligator nearby and yelled for them to get out of the water. Okkerse did not immediately surface, so Anen and her husband called 911. "We have a swimmer who did not come back, and we can't seem to find him," she told the dispatcher. "He usually swims back and forth, and he hasn't come back for at least 10 to 15 minutes."
Deputies with the Volusia County Sheriff's Office arrived at the park and were told by Anen that Okkerse was last seen swimming around "the boil" area of the spring for exercise. The Sheriff's Office Dive Team was called out to assist, and after an extensive search, located the body of Okkerse at the bottom of the channel.
"The medical examiner arrived and Okkerse's body was recovered," explained Sheriff's Office spokesman Gary Davidson. "After bringing Okkerse's body to shore, it was determined Florida Fish and Wildlife would assume the investigation, since there was obvious trauma to Okkerse's body consistent with accounts of an alligator attack."
FWC officers arrived and located a 12-foot alligator believed to be involved in the Okkerse's death. The alligator was shot and removed from the spring. That alligator was identified as the same one spotted in the swimming area several times in the spring the day before. At that time, FWC officials at the park closed the swimming area. No one spotted the gator on Monday morning, so the swimming area was reopened.
The Volusia County Medical Examiner's Office will determine the exact cause of death.
Fox 35 Weather Authority