80-Person Human Chain Saves Swimmers From Florida Rip Current

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On July 8, teamwork between 80 strangers on a beach saved the lives of almost a dozen swimmers in Panama City, Florida. When 10 people got caught in a rip current offshore, beachgoers formed a human chain to rescue them from drowning, according to The Washington Post and the Panama City News Herald.

Roberta Ursrey and her husband, mother, nephew, and sons were swimming at the beach on Saturday when her sons got caught up in a rip current and began screaming for help. The rest of the family swam out to help, only to get caught up in the current themselves. Others who attempted to rescue them got caught in the current, too. Ursrey told the News Herald that the water was about 15 feet deep.

There was no lifeguard on duty, but other swimmers back on the beach came up with a plan to help: People began forming a human chain out into the water. It started with just a few volunteers and finally grew to about 80 people in total, some of whom couldn’t swim themselves. Still, they ventured into the surf to help save the exhausted swimmers, who had been treading water for at least 20 minutes.

Jessica Simmons and her husband Derek used boogie boards to swim past the human chain and reach Ursrey's children, Noah and Stephen, and pass them back along the chain toward the beach. Roberta Ursrey blacked out before she eventually reached the shore with the help of Jessica. Roberta's mother, Barbara Franz, had a heart attack in the water.

An hour after the first individuals got caught up in the current, all 10 of the swimmers were taken back to shore. Several were taken to the hospital and were in stable condition as of July 11.

According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association, rip currents are the cause of more than 80 percent of the rescues lifeguards perform on beaches. In the U.S., approximately 100 people drown each year as a result. The fast-moving waters are difficult to navigate, even for the strongest swimmers, and many people who try to save others from rip currents drown in the process—making this rescue method a particularly impressive and effective choice.

[h/t The Washington Post]