Rescuers join hands to help members of a family who had got into trouble in a rip tide at Panama City beach in Florida, the US. Picture: The Washington Post
A group of strangers, seeing a family in desperate trouble in the ocean, formed a human chain, 80 people long and managed to pull them out of a deadly rip current.

The incident occurred at Panama City Beach in Florida in the US when nine members of a family got caught in the rip tide and were pulled out too far from shore.

AP reported that Roberta Ursrey and her family were enjoying the day at the M.B. Miller County Pier on the Gulf of Mexico when she noticed her sons were missing.

Despite being warned not to go into the water, Ursrey, her mother and five other family members swam to the boys’ aid, but then found themselves also in trouble, Northwest Florida Daily News reported.

Jessica Simmons, who had stopped with her husband at the beach for dinner, had just found a discarded boogie board when she saw people pointing at the water. She thought they were pointing at a shark, but when she realised people were in danger of drowning.

“These people are not drowning today,” Simmons remembers telling herself as she grabbed the board and began to paddle out. “It’s not happening. We are going to get them out.”

Simmons’ husband and some other men started a human chain. Some of the helpers couldn’t swim, so stayed in shallow water. Eventually, about 80 people were involved and got to within feet of the family.

The Ursrey family members were retrieved at last and were passed back to shore and safety.

Sadly Ursrey’s mother suffered a major heart attack during the ordeal and remains hospitalised. 

“I am so grateful,” Ursrey said of the help they received. “These people were God’s angels that were in the right place at the right time.”

Simmons said she was impressed by everyone working together to rescue the family.

According to the Washington Post, the whole ordeal has given the Ursreys, who just moved to Florida from the state of Georgia a month ago, a newfound respect for the power of the water.

“She’ll take you with her,” Ursrey said. “She almost took nine of us that day.” - AP