James Okkerse: Swimmer found dead in Florida was killed by alligator “Watch”

Updated: October 26, 2015
James Okkerse: Swimmer found dead in Florida was killed by alligator

James Okkerse, 61, was found floating face down near the shore of the swimming area, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

James Okkerse’s body was found after a 911 call about a missing swimmer was received by the agency, Officer Lenny Salberg announced in a statement to media Wednesday evening.

“The Volusia County Medical Examiner’s Office has reported that the cause and manner of death of Mr. Okkerse is consistent with an alligator attack,” Salberg said.

Following the discovery of the body, FWC staff caught and euthanized a 12 ½-foot alligator that has now been confirmed to have been involved in the attack, Salberg said.

“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Mr. Okkerse’s family and friends during this difficult time,” he added.

Despite the state’s bustling alligator population, fatal attacks are not common in Florida. Between 1948 and 2013, there were 22 fatalities recorded, according to FWC records. During that period, a total of 122 minor bites and 235 major bites were also logged. The last fatal alligator attack on record occurred in 2007.

Alligator-related human fatalities might not be common, but encounters with the creatures are. Those encounters add up to so many over the course of any given year that the state has set up its own hotline to accept nuisance alligator calls. That number is 1-866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).

In 2013 alone, the state fielded 15,036 nuisance alligator calls, which resulted in the removal of 6,605 creatures.

Earlier this year, a woman in the Orlando area lost an arm in an alligator attack. A black Labrador retriever in Tampa also disappeared after an encounter in Rowlett Park.