It took quick thinking and a strong grip, but 80 people managed to rally together to save the lives of 9 struggling in the powerful tide at Panama City Beach in Florida.
A strong riptide trapped six family members and three other swimmers in its swift current on July 8, 2017. When they heard their cries for help, 80 strangers on the beach linked hands and formed a long human chain stretching from the shore into the water up to their necks to rescue the drowning swimmers.
Roberta Ursrey was swimming in the water at the beach with her husband, mother, newphews and sons when she decided to return to shore. The Panama City News Herald reports that when Ursrey turned back, they seemed farther out than before – that’s when she heard their screams.
Despite several warnings, Ursrey and her family swam out to the drowning children. The rip current was much stronger than they anticipated and soon, the whole family was swimming for their lives.
“I honestly thought I was going to lose my family that day,” Ursrey told the News Herald. “It was like, ‘Oh God, this is how I’m going.’ ”
Thankfully, this was not how Ursrey and her family would spend their last moments on Earth. While a human chain began to from on shore, Jessica Simmons and her husband raced into the water with a discarded boogie board.
Knowing that she was a strong swimmer, Simmons paddled out to the exhausted swimmers as the human chain stretched out beside her, 100 yards into the rough water.
“These people are not drowning today,” Simmons recalled telling herself. “It’s not happening. We’re going to get them out.”
One-by-one Simmons and her husband passed the exhausted swimmers to the members of the human chain, who guided the victims safely back to shore.
Ursrey’s mother was delivered to shore unconscious, having suffered a heart attack while struggling to remain afloat. Thankfully, she was revived and is now recovering in the hospital.
“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.”
The Ursrey family has set up a GoFundMe account to help cover the cost of hospital and animal expenses.
Watch some live footage below: