A family that was stuck in a rip current had to be saved by a crowd of strangers forming a human chain and bringing the family back to shore. A total of nine people, including two children and an elderly woman, got trapped in the rip current at Panama City Beach, Florida, and the strangers began coordinating once they saw the group screaming and waving their arms calling for help. The chain eventually grew to 70 strangers, who held hands with each other and stretched to reach the trapped group. Everyone escaped safely.
Apparently, the situation began when the two sons of Roberta Ursrey, 8 years old and 11 years old, got caught by the current and began crying for help. Ursrey and family members entered the ocean in an attempt to rescue them, but they were pulled in by the current as well. The waves were stronger and bigger than normal at the beach, which made it more difficult for the family to fight back on their own. Police came onto the scene, but were waiting for a boat to arrive as they didn’t trust themselves to fight against the current on their own.
Because of police hesitance, beachgoers took matters into their own hands and began organizing the plan to form a human chain. The group also brought with them boogie boards and surfboards to help the family to return safely to land. The group began clapping and cheering once the mission had been accomplished. Ursrey later said after being rescued, “As a mama, I’m supposed to be able to protect them and do everything, and I couldn’t do it that day. I had to have help, which I was eternally grateful for that.”
Rip currents are a common hazard at U.S. beaches, killing over 100 people every year and being the cause of over 80% of lifeguard rescues. Officials recommend swimming parallel to the shoreline to get out of the current, rather than the instinct of swimming directly toward the shore.