Osceola County man rescued after spending week lost in swampy area in Okeechobee County

OKEECHOBEE — An Osceola County man who was lost for a week in northern Okeechobee County was able to survive his ordeal by drinking water out of his wallet.

Billy James ‘B.J.’ Herrin, 36, was last seen Friday, April 22, in the 5700 block of N.E. 304th Street. After an exhausting search by the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Herrin was found Friday, April 29, by two private citizens who were riding horses in the area.

Billy James ‘B.J.’ Herrin

Billy James ‘B.J.’ Herrin

Michele Bell, OCSO public information officer, said after searching over 4,000 acres the search was just about to be called off.

“We had exhausted all leads,” she said Monday, May 2,

OCSO Detective Mark Shireman, the lead investigator on the case, said Herrin was found around 6 p.m. about 1 mile west of the Florida Turnpike. He was in a swamp just north of N.E. 304th St. when the horseback riders found him.

“I don’t know who they were, but they were very important in this case,” said Detective Shireman.

After he was recovered, Herrin was first taken to Raulerson Hospital then later transported to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce.
Detective Shireman said the man was to undergo surgery Monday to remove a stick that was embedded close to his eye.

“He also had numerous cuts, scrapes and bug bites from being in the palmettos,” added the detective.

Detective Shireman said Herrin survived by soaking his shirt in whatever water he could find, then wringing his shirt into his wallet.

“He would then use his wallet as a cup and drink from it,” explained the investigator.

Herrin was in Okeechobee County to do some fishing with his friends.

According to Mrs. Bell he lost his cell phone so he and his friends returned to the area where they had been fishing to look for it, but they couldn’t find it. Herrin then went back later to search for phone by himself.

Detective Shireman said he got turned around in the swampy area and could not find his way out.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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