PANAMA CITY BEACH, FL – What started as a normal, fun day at the beach Saturday was saved from ending in tragedy by an estimated 70 heroes, who formed a human chain in the daring rescue of a drowning family.
Roberta Ursrey, her husband, two daughters, two sons, mother and nephew were spending Saturday afternoon at the beach when the family almost perished due to strong undercurrents in the water. Ursrey had just gotten out of the water when she looked around and saw all her family in one area, except her sons, who she finally saw half-way out towards the piers.
She said she went running down the beach to tell them to come in, when they started screaming and crying. Ursrey dove in to go after them, along with three other people who went out trying to help as well. They all became stuck in the current. Ursrey’s husband, nephew and mother all swam out to help, and became stuck in the current also, making a total of nine people now in desperate distress.
Jessica Mae Simmons and her husband, originally from Alabama, just happened to be walking on the beach when they saw people pointing and thought at first it was a shark attack, then noticed the group in trouble in the water. Simmons took off swimming toward the drowning family, using a surf board and a boogie board to help the victims, while her husband and other men started forming a human chain to bring them back to shore.
Simmons’ husband said in an interview Monday that people were in shock at first, but he just kept yelling, “We need help, we need help!” The human chain reportedly grew to about 70 people stretching over 100 yards.
The Panama City News Herald reported that Simmons and her husband were the main rescuers, passing the victims one by one down the line till they were all safely ashore. Those who couldn’t swim but wanted to help aided in the shallow water, while others stood in water up to their necks.
“It was the most remarkable thing to see,” Simmons said afterward. “These people who don’t even know each other and they trust each other that much to get them to safety.”
Ursery’s mother actually had a heart attack during the experience and almost died. She is currently in the hospital in ICU. Ursery said without those who helped, none of them would be here today, as the official emergency personnel just stood on the beach and did nothing to help.
Another beachgoer, Rosalind Beckton, was a witness to the miraculous rescue, and shared the story and photos on her personal Facebook page. Beckton said she has always warned her son about the danger of the rip currents, and now he has seen firsthand what can happen. Beckton also confirmed that most emergency responders simply watched and did nothing to help:
“Today we witness some REAL HERO’S and it wasn’t THE GUY’S IN UNIFORM…. IT WAS PPL OUT ON THE BEACH THAT HAD THE CARE/HEART TO RISK THEIR LIVES TO SAVE SOMEONE. THESE PPL JOIN HANDS & PULLED OUT 8 PPL ONE BY ONE WHO WAS STUCK IN A RIP CURRENT, WHILE EMERGENCY RESPONDERS WATCHED. ONLY ONE COP RAN INTO THE WATER TO GIVE A HAND. The others stood there waiting on a boat to come.”
Beckton shared one photo of an officer standing by while others assisted one of the victims, writing, “Its a cop standing looking at a lady that just got pulled out the waters in need of CPR…. He did NOTHING. Someone else assist the lady. I myself offered to help with CPR.”
Beckton shared some amazing photos of the rescue:
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