80 beachgoers form a human chain to rescue family swept away by riptide

W.T.M. Why This Matters
When backwash water dissipates along the shore uniformly, there is no problem. But if there is a feature on the beach that allows the water to rush back to the sea more quickly, such as a gap in a sandbar, then that faster-moving water becomes a rip current, which can drag a swimmer out past the waves into deep water.

 

It was an incredible rescue mission which saw Florida beachgoers form an epic human chain to rescue a family who were swept away by treacherous rip tides.

As the lifeguards had already left last Saturday evening, beachgoers swung into operation after seeing them fighting for their lives in the nerve-wracking ordeal.

They had no rescue equipment, only their boogie and surf boards, their group effort, and heroic courage.

From a short line started by a couple with a few bystanders on Panama City Beach, it grew to about 80 people who ventured out to sea in desperate attempts to reach the six members of the Ursrey family and four others who were also caught by the currents after their rescue attempts failed.

Photo: Roberta Ursrey

The hour-long high drama began when two young brothers started crying for help after they were trapped by the fast-moving currents.

Their mom, Ms Roberta Ursrey, their dad and two other family members then swam towards them, but all soon found themselves trapped in the water, which was about 4.5 metres deep, reported Panama City News Herald.

Photo: Rosalind Beckton's Facebook

Thank goodness, the human chain stretched long enough to reach out to the 10 stranded swimmers.

"The tide knocked every bit of energy out of us," said Ms Ursrey.

Jessica Simmons, who started the chain with her husband, wrote in her Facebook post: "There were (sic) two small children, a mother, a grandmother, an older son and a Chinese couple telling me they were so tired that they just couldn't do it anymore.

"They told (sic) me to save the kids first, so I gave the little boy a boogie board and told the mom to hang on to it. After 15 [minutes] of me pulling them towards the human chain. The group of people pulled him to shore like a chain.

"I took the boogie board and went back in and handed it to the grandmother, who at this point was barely alive. She was so out of it, that we couldn't keep her on the board.

The old woman looked right at Ms Simmon's husband, Derek, and told him: "Let me go, just let me die and save yourself".

"My heart sank. I was not going to let this lady die," recalled Ms Simmons.

on Facebook

So what is on my mind tonight?? Boy, do I have a story. And I am writing this in hopes that the thousands of people who...

Posted by Jessica Mae Simmons on Sunday, 9 July 2017
Roberta Ursrey (right with her mom) started a GoFundMe to help pay for her mother's medical expenses after suffered a heart attack during the ordeal.Photo: Roberta Ursrey

ALL RESCUED

One by one, the chain of people towed the family and the rest back to shore just as the sun was about to set. The entire beach reportedly applauded the amazing rescue.

Mrs Ursrey's mother suffered a major heart attack during the ordeal and was sent to hospital, reported ABC News. A nephew suffered a broken hand.

But the good thing: Everyone was rescued.

A grateful Ms 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."

chenj@sph.com.sg

Photo: Rosalind Beckton's Facebook
Screengrab from Jessica Simmon's Facebook

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