Florida beachgoers form 80-person human chain to save stranded swimmers

The human chain that saved a family stuck in a riptide

When Roberta Ursey and her family chose to take a quick beach trip, the events that unfolded were a true testament to human compassion in the face of adversity. Jessica Simmons got on her board and swam towards those in need with her husband close behind as the chain stretched more than 100 yards off shore. She started walking back to the beach and heard them screaming.

"They were trying their best to swim and everything but once you've been out there in a rip current for that long, it's like running a race all day long, it's just tiring", he said.

This is the incredible moment strangers on a beach formed a human shield to save a drowning family caught in a riptide in Florida.

'I honestly thought I was going to lose my family that day, ' Ursrey said. Ursrey's mother was exhausted, her eyes were rolling back and Simmons remembered her "drinking so much water" and "telling us to just let her go and save us".

Ms Simmons described a distressing scene in the water, including finding the family's grandmother was nearly unconscious as she was hauled back to shore.

The Washington Post reports that the Saturday rescue at Panama City Beach saved six members of a single family, as well as four other swimmers who were caught in a rip current.

"These people are not drowning today. Without them, we wouldn't be here".

Rosalind Beckton took photos of more than 40 people creating the human chain near the county pier to pull in the swimmers. "It was wonderful." The chain eventually stretched out to about 100 yards, reports say.

In an attempt to rescue her family, Ursey also found herself trapped in the powerful tide. "You know, everyone's pointing", Derek said. "I practically lived in a pool".

Simmons and other rescuers were able to tow each family member to the human chain, who then pulled them all to the shore.

For 20 minutes, Ursrey, the rest of her family as well as other swimmers were fighting for their lives.

"These people were God's angels that were in the right place at the right time", Ursrey told the News Herald. But two out of the rescue party were exceptional swimmers who knew they could reach the stranded family: Jessica and Derek Simmons.

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