PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) – Eight people may owe their lives to dozens of complete strangers who lent them a hand, quite literally, this past weekend.
The swimmers were saved from possible drowning Saturday afternoon with the bystanders forming a human chain to pull them out of rip currents. The Associated Press reports the chain was 80 people long.
“It seemed very okay where me and my wife went out to, but a little ways out was two kids on the boogey board screaming for help and nobody was around,” Brittany Monroe said.
Monroe and her wife Tabatha were visiting the beach from Lagrange, Georgia. She was one of two swimmers who were transported to Bay Medical Sacred Heart for breathing difficulties.
The couple tried to swim over to the kids and help.
“The more we tried to swim in, the further we went out,” Monroe said. “We went into panic mode.”
Eight people ended up stranded in a rip current trying to help.
Others on the shore called 9-1-1. Panama City Beach Police responded to the beach while Florida Fish and Wildlife Officers were on the way in a boat.
However, onlookers took matters into their own hands. Rosalind Beckton took several photos of people creating a human chain in the water.
With each photo, the chain gets longer until the group reached and rescued every swimmer.
“All grabbed arm to arm and got them out there to the kids. They got the kids in first then started working on them and getting everyone in,” Monroe said. “I felt like God heard our prayers and gave everybody strength to do it.”
The other swimmer who was transported to the hospital remains in critical condition but is improving.
Several people who shared photos on Facebook questioned why Panama City Beach police officers didn’t go into the water to help when they arrived.
Deputy Chief Chad Lindsey said because FWC was on the way in a boat the responding officers made a decision that prevented them from getting into danger so they could help others.