A idyllic summer day at Panama City Beach almost turned into a tragedy when a family of six, including small children and their grandmother, was sucked out to sea by a riptide. Pulled a football field’s length way from shore, the first few rescuers who tried to swim to their aid also became trapped, and despite following guidelines, were unable to get into smoother water and back to shore. There was no lifeguard at the beach, and law enforcement could do little besides call for a boat and hope rescue by water came in time. That’s when fellow beach goers took matters into their own hands.
One by one, strangers on shore who could hear the Ursrey family’s cries for help linked arms and legs to form a human chain long enough to reach the struggling swimmers. More and more people joined as they saw the situation unfolding, bringing their boogie and surfboards along, too. Soon the chain was 80 people long, then 100. Some in the rescue effort couldn’t swim. But two out of the rescue party were exceptional swimmers who knew they could reach the stranded family: Jessica and Derek Simmons.
The Simmonses were confident that they had the stamina and the skill needed to get to the Ursreys. As the human chain formed, they swam past its ever-expanding reach to try and relieve the ten people who had been desperately treading water for almost thirty minutes. Starting with the two young Ursrey children (Noah, 11, and Stephen, 8) Jessica Simmons passed the victims to the human chain, who helped them back to shore.
Mrs. Ursrey was in rough condition, blacking out from the effort of keeping herself and her children afloat. Meanwhile, her 67-year-old mother was still in the water and suffering from a massive heart attack from the effort of staying afloat. A married couple who had swum out to rescue the Ursreys, Tabatha Monroe and her wife, Brittany, also needed rescue. Brittany Monroe was later treated in the hospital for a panic attack. Mrs. Ursrey said she was sure her family was going to die in the water. But thanks to the Simmons couple and their 100 fellow rescuers, everyone caught in the riptide was saved after an hour of strenuous effort. Ursrey said of the close call’s happy ending, “It actually showed me there are good people in this world.”
(Via Washington Post)