Over 80 people banded together to form a human chain stretching almost 100 metres into the water to rescue a group of swimmers who were drowning and caught in a powerful rip.
Six members of the same family were among nine people passed along the chain to safety at Florida’s Panama City beach in the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend.
“I’m going to die,” Roberta Ursrey, who was stuck in the rip with her children, recalled to The Washington Post.
“My family is going to die this way. I just can’t do it.”
Derek Simmons, who organised the chain with his wife Jessica, was having a picnic on the beach when he noticed people pointing towards the water.
“We walked down to see what was going on and I asked the guy furthest out if everything was OK", he told the Guardian.
"He said: ‘No, those people out there are drowning, I can’t get to them because the current’s too strong.'"
It was then that Derek decided to get the attention of others on the beach to help form a chain out to the stranded swimmers. "If you know about ants, you know when one’s in trouble they form a chain to help it," he explained to the Guardian.
Though at first beachgoers were hesitant to get themselves so close to the dangerous current, soon over 80 people were in the water.
Simmons and his wife were then able to reach the nine drowning people on their boogie boards and began to pass them down the chain, starting with an 8-year-old boy and his 11-year-old brother.
“It was a wave of humanity that brings some things back into focus, that maybe we haven’t lost all hope in this world,” Simmons said of the event.
The hardest to help was a 67-year-old grandmother, who had suffered a heart attack in the water and appeared "lifeless."
Derek's wife Jessica, who was attempting to save the woman with her boogie board wrote on Facebook: "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."
In a GoFundMe page, created to help with medical expenses, Roberta Ursrey says her mum is in a stable condition in hospital now.