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Friday, 30 October 2015 10:47

Fatal Alligator Attack First Since 2007

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Fatal Alligator Attack First Since 2007 Courtesy of AwesomeFlorida.com

Florida suffered its first alligator-related fatality since 2007 last week, when a 12-foot gator attacked and killed 61-year-old James Okkerse while he was out snorkeling at Blue Spring State Park. Speculations persist on whether the park officials did enough to warn people in the water about the potential dangers that existed in the time of the fatal encounter. There were a couple of sightings of an alligator in the park the day before that were reported by visitors. The sightings were of a specimen about the size as the one suspected in the attack.

According to Russell Anen, 73, who swam with Okkerse on the morning of his disappearance, the park had not warned them about the alligator sightings. However, records at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection showed that the area where the alligator had been sighted was closed for nearly an hour after the reports came in on Sunday, October 18. The reported alligator was not found during this time.

Okkerse’s body was found and pulled from the water on October 19. Wounds on the body were indicative of an attack by an alligator. He had been reported missing by friends previous to being found, and his wife, Carol, had contacted the police to report that he had not returned from swimming.

His death ends the longest period of time between alligator caused fatalities in the state, which stretched approximately 8 years. This was nearly twice the length as the second largest stretch from 1979 to 1983.

Since 1948, records show that 22 people have been killed by alligators in Florida.

The alligator suspected in the attack was captured and killed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Mr. Okkerse's family and friends during this difficult time," said FWC Officer Lenny Salberg.

The American Alligator is one of the most famous symbols of Florida, and for the most part they tend to not see humans as potential prey. Attacks often occur in waters with low visibility, where humans can be mistaken for other species. Prior to 2007, Florida experienced 12 people killed by alligators between 2001 and 2007, with 3 deaths occurring in the span of a week in May of 2006.

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