These beachgoers had no idea what their day under the sun was going to bring them or that they would end that day becoming heroes and saving several lives. They formed a 100-yard long human chain when they saw trouble in the ocean. There was a family and numerous other swimmers that had been caught in a riptide, and it wasn’t looking like they were going to make it back in.
It was Roberta Ursery and her family who had visited the beach that day to enjoy some fun in the water, but when they were walking back to shore, she noticed that her two sons were much farther away out in the ocean that she had thought originally. She panicked.
Then she heard her sons’ screams and it was then that she knew she had to get to them and save them somehow, even despite other beachgoers warning her that she better not go into the water for fear of the worst happening to her as well.
“They were screaming and crying that they were stuck,” Ursrey told the Panama City News Herald Monday.
Sadly, despite her best attempt at saving her family, Ursrey too got caught in the riptide right along with the rest of her family, just as it was feared would happen.
“I honestly thought I was going to lose my family that day,” Ursrey said. “It was like, ‘Oh God; this is how I’m going.’”
In steps Jessica and Derek Simmons…then everything changes.
When this couple saw that people were gathering in a crowd to look at the water, they had figured it to be shark sighting.
“I automatically thought they had seen a shark,” Jessica Simmons said. “I ran back to shore and my husband ran over to them. … That’s when I knew someone was drowning.”
Immediately Simmons grabbed a boogie board and started to swim straight towards the family facing total doom, while her husband, Derek, started to create a human chain along with several other men.
“These people are not drowning today,” Simmons remembers telling herself. “It’s not happening. We’re going to get them out.”
As Simmons paddled out to the family, the chain grew to 80 people spanning 100 yards with surfboards and boogie boards to pull the distressed swimmers to shore.
“I gave the little boy a boogie board and told the mom to hang on to it. After 15 mins of me pulling them towards the human chain, the group of people PULLED him to shore like a chain,” Simmons recounted on Facebook.
The chain pulled Ursrey’s two sons back to shore first, then pulled in Ursrey and her mother.
“As a mama, I’m supposed to be able to protect them and do everything, and I couldn’t do it that day,” Ursrey told WJHG. “I had to have help, which I was eternally grateful for that.”
On top of all this that had happened, Ursrey’s mother, Barbara Franz had suffered a massive heart attack right there in the ocean water while they were waiting to see if they would make it out alive or not. She has recovered since and is in the hospital while she gains her strength in stable condition.
The Ursrey family has not yet had the chance to meet and thank Jessica and Derek, however once all is settled and Franz is released from the hospital that is the very first thing on their list of things to do.
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