80 Beachgoers Form a Human Chain to Save Family from Drowning

When a family got caught in a rip current in Florida, 80 strangers banded together to save them. 

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80 person human chain forms to save family on beach

Dozens of beachgoers in Panama City, Florida formed a human chain to rescue a family that had been dragged to sea by a powerful rip current earlier this week.

Roberta Ursrey and her family were soaking up some rays near M.B. Miller County Pier on Saturday when she noticed her two boys, 8-year-old Stephen and his 11-year-old brother Noah, were missing. The boys had been pulled far from shore by a dangerous rip current, but Ursrey didn’t know that until she went looking for them and heard them screaming for help from the water.

Ursrey, her mother, and five family members braved the waters, swimming out to try to rescue the boys, but all, including a nephew of Ursrey’s and an unidentified couple, were quickly overpowered by the current.

A group of beachgoers led by Alabama native Derek Simmons quickly banded together to aid the group.

Simmons and his family were enjoying a beach picnic when he spotted Ursrey and the rest of her family waving their arms and shouting in the water. At first, he thought they were warning of sharks nearby, but he quickly realized the mother of four was in dire need of help.

“We walked down to see what was going on and I asked the guy furthest out if everything was OK. He said: ‘No, those people out there are drowning, I can’t get to them because the current’s too strong.’” Simmons told The Guardian.

He sprang into action, gathering anyone willing to help to form a human chain while he and his wife paddled to the stranded swimmers on their body boards.

With the aid of more than 80 people, Simmons and his wife were able to bring the boys back to shore first, followed by their mother and the rest of the family, including the grandmother who had suffered a heart attack while in the water. The entire rescue took over an hour, leaving everyone exhausted, but despite everything, Ursrey says she and her family are grateful for the kindness of strangers that day.

“I am so grateful,” Ursrey told the Panama City News Herald. “These people were God’s angels that were in the right place at the right time. I owe my life and my family’s life to them. Without them, we wouldn't be here.”

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