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Florida beachgoers form 80-person human chain to save drowning family

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. — A human chain started by an Alabama woman and her husband helped rescue a family of nine after they got caught in a riptide off the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Jessica Simmons and her husband, Derek, were on a pier off the coast of Panama City Beach, WSFA reports.  They heard screaming and saw people pointing at two boys who got caught in a riptide.

The boys’ mother, Roberta Ursrey, and her husband, nephews, mother and two daughters tried to swim out to rescue them.

“At first, you’d think it was a shark. You know, everyone’s pointing,”  Derek Simmons said. “So we kept walking, and when we got over there, there was a guy in the water, saying, ‘Man, they’re all stuck out there, the riptide’s pulled them out, I tried to go out there; if I go any farther, I’m going to get stuck.’”

The family of nine was stuck in 15 feet of water, The Panama City News Herald reported

That’s when Jessica and Derek Simmons started a human chain to try to reach the family and bring them back to shore.

Jessica Simmons said the chain grew from five to 15 people, then expanded until it reached the family to pull them all to safety.

“Without them, we wouldn’t be here because emergency personnel stood on the beach,” Ursrey said. “They wouldn’t even link up and help.

“It was the human chain that pulled us out of that water. God’s good grace and them is the reason we’re here today.”