Group Of Beachgoers Form Human Chain To Rescue Family From The Ocean

"I honestly thought I was going to lose my family that day."

A group of about 80 selfless beachgoers used a human chain to rescue nine people who nearly drowned in a riptide off the coast of Florida on Saturday.

According to the Panama City News Herald, it all started when Roberta Ursrey noticed that her two sons — 8 and 11 years old — had been pulled out much further from the shore than she remembered. Trying to help, Ursrey and the rest of her family swam back out to try and get the boys. But quickly, they too got stuck in the rip tide.


Meanwhile, on the coast, Alabama native Jessica Simmons had come down to enjoy dinner with her family when she noticed people staring and pointing out to the water. Simmons, who in a Facebook post said she had always been a strong swimmer, grabbed a boogie board and swam out to the family with her husband.

At the same time, people of all ages, races and swimming abilities began forming a human chain from the shallows out to the family. 

"These people are not drowning today," Simmons said she told herself in an interview with Panama City News Herald. "It's not happening. We're going to get them out."

When Simmons and her husband made it to Ursery's family, and three other swimmers who had been caught in the riptide, she was "shocked." She told The Panama City News Herald that Roberta's mother's eyes were rolling back, that she was telling them to leave her and save the kids. It turned out she suffered a massive heart attack during the ordeal. The children, too, were exhausted and not sure they could make it back in. 

"I honestly thought I was going to lose my family that day," Roberta Ursrey told The Panama City News Herald. "It was like, 'Oh God, this is how I'm going.'"

Once Simmons had reached them, the human chain was more than 100 yards long, according to onlookers. Slowly, she took the distressed swimmers and towed them to the human chain, where they were passed between people all the way back to safety on shore. When it was all said and done, everyone — including Roberta's mother — survived.

"I am so grateful," Ursrey said. "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."

Cover photo: Shutterstock / Bozhena Melnyk

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