It’s summer and people love to spend their weekends relaxing by the shore. But when a fun beach outing may take a deadly twist you never know. Something similar happened when a family out for a beach picnic and were caught in a dangerous riptide.
Roberta Ursrey and her family were at Panama City Beach when she suddenly noticed that her sons were too far into the water. The boys were screaming, so Ursrey and her relatives quickly swam up to them, but they too got trapped in a rip current, The Panama City News Herald reported.
“I honestly thought I was going to lose my family that day. It was like, ‘Oh God, this is how I’m going’,” Roberta Ursrey told them. All nine of them were trapped in 15ft of water, confused by the cross-current and the force pulling them further into the water.
But thanks to Jessica Simmons, who, by chance had picked up a discarded boogie board that day, noticed all the commotion and decided to help the family out. “I automatically thought they had seen a shark,” Simmons said. “I ran back to shore and my husband ran over to them. … That’s when I knew someone was drowning.”
Human chain in Panama City Beach to save 9 people drowning pic.twitter.com/n25KvoPhxr
— Susan Anne Manning (@sunbird605) July 10, 2017
While Simmons paddled towards the family, her husband along with other beachgoers – around 80 of them – formed a long human chain to help the family in distress.
Simmons said when she finally reached close to the place where they were entangled, she saw how exhausted they were. Ursrey’s mother’s eyes were rolling in the back of her head and she told Simmons to leave her and save the rest. The elderly lady even suffered a heart attack due to stress. Her nephew had a broken hand, but otherwise, everyone is recovering from their deadly encounter with the sea.
“Everyone was exhausted, the waves knocking them under. One by one, starting with the children, Simmons and her husband, along with a few other rescuers, towed the swimmers to the human chain, who then pulled them all to shore,” the Herald report added.
“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.”
One of the witnesses, Rosalind Beckton, uploaded photos of the rescue on Facebook showing how strangers jumped in to help people from drowning. But she also alleged that there were people in uniform who sat idly by as the human chain was being formed.
However, according to a report by the Guardian, a spokesman for the Panama Beach police department said two of their officers were present throughout and were trying to prevent people from entering the water, fearing they would also become caught in the current. He said a rescue boat was ordered from wildlife authorities but did not reach the scene in time.