As many as 80—though one witness says it was 30—beachgoers joined hands to save a group of people from a riptide in Panama City Beach, Florida.
As many as 80—though one witness says it was 30—beachgoers joined hands to save a group of people from a riptide in Panama City Beach, Florida. (Public Domain)

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She calls them "God's angels."

As many as 80—though one witness says it was 30—beachgoers joined hands to save a group of people from a riptide in Panama City Beach, Florida.

"The water, when it starts going around, there's nothing that can save you,'' says Roberta Ursrey, whose family was trapped.

She jumped into the water and started swimming toward them without a second thought.

"I honestly thought I was going to lose my family that day," Ursrey says. "It was like, 'Oh God, this is how I'm going.'"

But God had other plans.

Fellow beach visitors Jessica and Derek Simmons noticed the distress. Derek started recruiting sunbathers to form a human chain while Jessica figured out how to reach the family.

Jessica, via Facebook, describes the event like this:

As I start questioning the people on the beach, they tell me that it is not just 1 people, but 9 adults with two small children. I have always been a GREAT swimmer. I was raised in a pool and a lake since I was crawling, so water was no hard task for me. I can hold my breathe underwater and go around a Olympic pool with ease! I knew I could get them to the human chain of people that wanted to help. I went past the 50 plus people in the human chain and went straight to them with Derek right behind me. When I got there, there was 2 small children, a mother, a grandmother, a older son and a Chinese couple telling me they was so tired, that they just couldn't do it anymore. They tell me to save the kids first, so 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. I took the boogie board and went back in and handed it to the grandmother, who at this point was barely alive. She was so out of it, that we couldn't keep her on the board. She looked right at Derek and told him, "Let me go, just let me die and save yourself." My heart sank. I was not going to let this lady die. At this point, the son and Derek are trying to keep her head up. She was so limb, the waves were pushing her around like a rag doll putting her son and Derek underwater to keep her head up. A surfer came out into the rip tide and put the two Chinese people on the surf board which I was so grateful for!! I wish I knew who he was! He got behind the surf board and started pushing it. Derek grabbed the grandmother and threw her onto the surf board. She just kept telling us to let her be and her son was yelling at her saying, "Stay with me now, your going to be ok!" He kept shaking her to make sure she was still breathing. She was so out of it, her eyes were rolling into the back of her head. After 30 mins of us pulling them, we got the grandmother, the Chinese couple and the Son to the human chain, who pulled them into shore. There was one lady left who had my boogie board. At this time, the EMT finally arrived and ran out into the water to get her. At the end when we got the last person in, our chain grew to 70 strangers holding hand in hand to save these people.

Ursey says she knows it's God's intervention.

"I am so grateful," These people were God's angels that were in the right place at the right time. I owe my life and my family's life to them. Without them, we wouldn't be here."


Jessilyn Justice is the director of online news for Charisma. Born and raised in a pastor's family in Alabama, she attended Lee University and the Washington Journalism Center. She's passionate about sharing God's goodness through storytelling. Tell her what you think of this story on Twitter @jessilynjustice.

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