80 Beachgoers Created A Human Chain To Rescue Family Stuck In Riptide

Anyone who has been caught in a riptide will tell you how terrifying it is to feel that you have absolutely no control over where your body is being flung. Roberta Ursrey experienced this terror, only she had to undergo the trauma with her entire family, fearing that they would all lose their lives. Luckily for them, the good samaritans of Panama City Beach, Florida banded together to help get the family back to safety.Roberta had just left the water, with her sons still swimming, when she turned around to see that they had drifted far away. She walked closer, and once she heard their screams she realized they had been caught in a riptide. Roberta told the Panama City News Herald: “They were screaming and crying that they were stuck. People were saying, ‘Don’t go out there.’”But Roberta and her family were not going to let the boys drown. So the whole family, including Roberta’s husband, nephews, and mother, quickly ran into the water to save them. But before they knew it, all nine of them were caught in the same current, struggling to escape the strength of the 15-foot deep waters. “I honestly thought I was going to lose my family that day,” Roberta said. “It was like, ‘Oh God, this is how I’m going.’”

Luckily for the Ursrey family, a woman on the beach named Jessica Simmons was no bystander. She had happened to pick up a discarded boogie board earlier that day, and immediately paddled out toward the family to help in order to try and rescue them. In the meantime, her husband – along with other beachgoers – began to make a human chain starting at the shore. With non-swimmers standing toward the shore and strong swimmers going deeper, the chain eventually had 80 people and stretched about 100 yards. With those at the end of the chain in water up to their necks, they waited for Simmons and her husband to bring the family over, so they could pass them down the chain one-by-one.“I got to the end, and I know I’m a really good swimmer,” Simmons said. “I practically lived in a pool. I knew I could get out there and get to them.”They were eventually able to pass the family along the chain and get them all safely to shore. Roberta doesn’t remember anything besides waking up on land, and her mother suffered a heart attack that was nearly fatal. The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover her hospital expenses. Simmons says she remembers seeing Roberta’s mother swallowing a lot of water and her eyes rolling back as she was struggling to get the kids to shore.“I am so grateful,” Roberta said of the 80 beachgoers. “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.”Rosalind Beckton was a witness to the events, and while impressed by the beachgoers, she was less impressed by the uniformed personnel at the scene. In her Facebook posts documenting the ordeal, she alleges that there were uniformed emergency responders on the shore who didn’t help, with only one cop going into the water.


Regardless, this case shows the amazing power that strangers can have when they band together. “It’s so cool to see how we have our own lives and we’re constantly at a fast pace, but when somebody needs help, everybody drops everything and helps.” Simmons said. “With everything going on in the world, we still have humanity.”

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