Roberta Ursrey and eight Family members, including an elderly woman and two children, were close to drowning off Panama City Beach on Saturday after a powerful riptide caught them, dragging them out to sea. One person on the beach noticed and decided that no one was drowning that day. She was the start of an at least 80-person human chain that saved the entire family.

Roberta Ursrey told Northwest Florida Daily News that she honestly thought she was going to lose her family that day. She said to herself, "this is how I am going." Ursrey said she had just walked out of the water when she suddenly noticed that her sons, aged eight and eleven, were missing.

She then heard them screaming and crying for help out in the water, saying they were stuck. She added that people were telling her not to go out there, it was too dangerous, but she had to. Ursrey and other members of her family immediately started to swim out toward her sons.

It ended up with nine family members out in the water, including her mother. The whole family became trapped in around 15 feet of water while trying to rescue her sons. While it was happening, Ursrey’s mother suffered a major heart attack.

Woman and husband start the human chain

As the family became trapped, Jessica Simmons, the woman who first noticed they were in trouble, grabbed a boogie board, and with the help of her husband, started a human chain to rescue the family.

One witness, Rosalind Beckton, told CNN that at first she saw a small group of people, then many more, forming the human chain.

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She said her first thought was that there was a shark in the water and she was yelling at her son to get him out of the water. But suddenly she saw that the waves were washing the group further out to sea. Beckton said the waves were so strong and heavy.

Beckton said that while this was going on, police and paramedics arrived on the beach and one officer started swimming toward the family, but turned back. The police said they were waiting for a boat, which they would then send out to rescue the family. However, the human chain, which was growing at that time, managed to rescue the whole family.

According to Simmons, her first thought was that the family was not drowning that day. She said it was not happening, they were going to rescue them. As the human chain formed, Simmons paddled out on her boogie board to the end of the chain, which by that time stretched around 100 yards out into the water.

She first reached Ursrey’s mother, who was unconscious and taking in a lot of water. When the mother came around, she was reportedly telling them to let her go and save the others, but Simmons and the other Good Samaritans were not giving up on her. The group then used boogie boards and surf boards to move the family members to shore.

80 strangers, all trusting each other

Simmons said it was one of the most remarkable things to see. So many strangers trusting each other enough to get the family to safety. She said once the family was safety ashore, they all started cheering and clapping, happy over the fact that they had accomplished their mission.

Family survives the harrowing experience

Ursrey and her entire family survived the terrifying ordeal. Her mother was taken ashore and survived and her nephew broke his hand. Other than that, everyone in the family was alive and well. Ursrey went on to say how grateful she was, calling their rescuers God’s angels, who were in the right place at the right time. She said she owes her life and the lives of her family to the 80 or so strangers who joined hands in a human chain to help them, adding that if it wasn’t for them, they wouldn’t be here.