PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Eight people may owe their lives to dozens of complete strangers who lent them a hand, quite literally, this weekend.
Bystanders on Panama City Beach formed a human chain after swimmers became stuck in a rip current in the Gulf Saturday afternoon.
“It seemed very ok where me and my wife went out to, but a little ways out was two kids on the boogie board screaming for help and nobody was around,” Brittany Monroe said Monday.
Monroe and her wife Tabatha were visiting the beach from LaGrange, Georgia, and tried to swim over to help but got caught in the rip current themselves. Eight people ended up stranded in a rip current while trying to help.
“The more we tried to swim in, the further we went out,” Monroe said. “We went into panic mode.”
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.
But onlookers took matters into their own hands. People on the beach began to link hands and form a human chain into the water.
Photos show the chain get longer and longer until it reached the stranded swimmers, with those on the scene helping to pull every one of them out of the water, likely saving them from drowning.
“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.”
Monroe’s wife was one of two swimmers who were transported to a hospital for breathing difficulties. The other swimmer remains in critical condition but is improving, officials said.
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.