Man found after a week in Okeechobee woods

Posted at 11:08 PM, May 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-04 05:25:23-04

Billy Herrin was in the process of turning his life around when he wondered if his life was about to come to an end.

As he was heading back into an Okeechobee County swamp to find a fishing spot on Saturday, April 23, the ATV Billy Herrin was riding on hit a cypress stump.    He fell off and lost his phone.

“I decided to go back and look for it.  When I did, it took less than 10 minutes for me to get completely backward… lost," said Herrin Tuesday.

Within minutes, he lost his shoes in a muddy sinkhole.

“I couldn’t see nobody, hear nobody, nobody could hear me yelling.  It started getting scary real quick,” he said.

His hands and arms show the scars from constant contact with thorns and briars. 

Billy says, “Everything looked the same, it was like the Bermuda Triangle out there.”

When Monday came, his boss got worried.

“If he was there, then he’s out there, I know he’s there and I did not give up on him," said Silvermoon Taggart, Herrin's boss.

The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office searched from April 25 through the 29 covering 4,000 square miles.  Herrin said he sometimes heard the helicopters, but still no one heard him.

“After the third day, I started thinking about my youngins (sic)," said Herrin, a father of five.

On day 6, he thought about giving up.

“God this is cruel either take me out of this world or show me a miracle,” Billy said.

He was weak and dehydrated, subsisting on only what he called snake berries.  I asked him if they're poisonous. "Apparently not they didn’t kill me," laughed Herrin.

Last Friday, about seven miles from where he first lost his way, Herrin heard some men on horseback.

“I started screaming bloody murder, “Hey can you hear me!"

Herrin was led back out to the Turnpike, where paramedics took him to the hospital where he spent the past week.  Herrin said one of the most amazing things is that he saw no animals during his week in the woods.

The man who found him, Samuel Smedley, was given a $1,000 reward from Herrin's boss.