A Florida family was pulled away from Panama City Beach by a riptide Saturday evening after repeated attempts to rescue two young boys who were chasing waves on their boogie boards. A total of 10 persons, including a 34-year-old mother and 67-year-old grandmother, were swept out to sea.
As the family and friends foundered about 100 yards off the beachhead, without any lifeguard on duty, or any patrol boat on its way, bystanders on the beach decided to implement a rescue effort of their own.
What followed was a rescue attempt nothing short of miraculous.
They formed a human chain. First a group of five persons went into the water, then ten, then fifteen to retrieve the swimmers who had, by this time, spent twenty minutes battling the riptide, and were tiring. Unable to swim back to shore or flank the current, the family was in danger of drowning. The oldest of the stranded swimmers, Barbara Franz, 67, was having a heart attack.
“I’m going to die this way,” Robert Ursery, the mother, told The Washington Post. “My family is going to die this way. I just can’t do it.”
Stephen Ursery, 8, and his older brother Noah, 11, who had drifted away from their family, and Roberta Ursery, their mother, her 31-year-old husband, 27-year-old nephew, grandmother Barbara Franz, as well as Brittany Monroe and Tabatha Monroe, and others, who had gone in to the waves to help, were struggling in the water.
The chain kept growing as more bystanders joined in. Soon 80 or so humans had formed a chain and, after other swimmers on surfboards went out to help, the family members and friends were passed down the chain of humans.
Just as the sun was setting, and after an hour of foundering in the waves, all 10 of the stranded swimmers were rescued and brought safely back on shore. The entire beach applauded.
“It was beachgoers and the grace of God’s will,” said Ursery. “That’s why we’re here today.”
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