Strangers formed an 80-person human chain to rescue swimmers from drowning

Two people running into the water.
(Image credit: iStock)

Dozens of strangers put their own lives at risk on Saturday when 10 people, including six members of the same family, got swept out to sea by a powerful riptide off of Florida's Panama City Beach, The Washington Post reports. "These people are not drowning today," Jessica Simmons, who noticed the commotion from shore, remembered thinking. "It's not happening. We're going to get them."

While responding law enforcement had determined to wait for a rescue boat, people watching on shore decided they needed to act or risk watching the swimmers drown where they were caught about 100 yards from shore. Among those swept up in the riptide was Roberta Ursrey, who became trapped when trying to rescue her 11- and 8-year-old sons, as well as Tabatha Monroe and her wife, Brittany, who had also tried to rescue the boys. Ursrey's 27-year-old nephew, 67-year-old mother, and 31-year-old husband also became trapped as they tried to rescue the swimmers.

Back on the beach, people began to band together to form a human chain to reach the swimmers. At first just five people volunteered, but soon dozens were linking hands with strangers. Simmons and her husband, Derek, eventually swam past approximately 80 people to hook the youngest boys and pass them into the human chain, which relayed them back to the shore.

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Nearly an hour later, the human chain had helped carry all 10 swimmers back to land. "To see people from different races and genders come into action to help TOTAL strangers is absolutely amazing to see!! People who didn't even know each other went HAND IN HAND IN A LINE, into the water to try and reach them. Pause and just IMAGINE that," Simmons wrote on Facebook.

"It actually showed me there are good people in this world," Ursrey said.

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.