Florida beachgoers grouped together to save a large family from drowning.
Roberta Ursrey and her family were at the Panama City Beach, Florida, when she noticed her sons were too far from the shore, according to the Panama City News Herald.
As Ursey and other relatives swam toward the sons, she became trapped in a rip current.
“I honestly thought I was going to lose my family that day,” Ursrey told the paper. “It was like, ‘Oh God, this is how I’m going.'”
The City News reported that nine people were trapped in 15 feet of water.
“They were screaming and crying that they were stuck,” Ursrey told the paper. “People were saying, ‘Don’t go out there.’ “
That’s when Jessica Simmons, a woman who stopped with her husband at the beach for dinner, found a boogie board and swam towards Ursrey’s family, CBS News reported. At first, she thought people on the beach were pointing at a shark—but she realized that it was actually people trapped in a rip current.
“These people are not drowning today,” Simmons told CBS, recalling what she was telling herself. “It’s not happening. We are going to get them out.”
Simmons’s husband and other men then began forming a human chain to rescue those who were trapped out in the rip current.
Eventually, 80 people were involved and got within feet of the family before rescuing them.
As CBS reported, Ursrey’s mother suffered a major heart attack during the ordeal. In all, two people were taken to the hospital.
“I am so grateful,” Ursrey told CBS. “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.”
Simmons said that the event reaffirmed her faith in humanity.
“It’s so cool to see how we have our own lives and we’re constantly at a fast pace, but when somebody needs help, everybody drops everything and helps,” Simmons told the Panama City News Herald. “That was really inspiring to see that we still have that.
“With everything going on in the world, we still have humanity,” she added.
Rip currents are powerful, channels of fast-moving water that can travel at speeds of up to 8 feet per second.
Every year, lifeguards in the United States rescue tens of thousands of people from such currents, but theNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that roughly 100 people die in them. “If caught in a rip current, don’t fight it! Swim parallel to the shore and swim back to land at an angle,” advises NOAA. Swimmers often drown because they try to fight the current and swim back to shore and grow fatigued.