Strangers form 'human chain', save family from rip current

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A day on the beach almost turned tragic for Roberta Ursery and her family Saturday.

"I seen my husband, my mama, my oldest daughter, and my youngest daughter and my nephew, but I ain't seen my boys," Ursrey said.

When she finally saw her 8 and 11 year-old boys they were far out in the water. She later realized they were caught in a rip current.

"They were screaming and crying that they were stuck and they couldn't go no where," Ursrey explained.

In a state of panic, Ursrey and most of her family ran into the water to rescue her children, but the current proved too much.

"We all ended up being stuck in it," Ursrey said.

While in the water struggling to stay afloat, Ursrey said that's when something amazing happened: a selfless act performed by strangers that she said helped save her life.

People on the beach locked arms and formed a human chain to reach Ursrey and the others caught in the rip current.

"We got caught in the current and well our mom had to go in after me and my brother and the people made a human chain and pulled us out," Stephen Usrey, 8 years-old, said.

Jessica Simmons was one of the people who helped the family get out of the water. She said the idea for a human chain came about as people were trying to figure out how to reach the family.

"It went from like five people to about 70 people at the end. It lasted well over an hour," Simmons said.

"At the very end we all started clapping and cheering because they were so happy over the fact that we accomplished it." Simmons explained.

It was a chain of events that ultimately left Ursery feeling thankful.
"Cause as a mama I'm supposed to be able to protect them and do everything and I couldn't do it that day," Ursery said, "I had to have help which I was eternally grateful for that."

As for Stephen Ursery, he said he just wants the chance to pay it forward one day.

Ursrey said the flags were yellow at the time of the ordeal. She said her mother, who also tried to help in the rescue suffered a heart attack and is still recovering in the hospital.

We've provided a link to the GoFundMe page for medical expenses for Ursrey's mom. That link can be found at the top right of this story.