Story at a glance:

  • A girl was rescued from drowning in Panama City Beach.
    • Another woman was then rescued from drowning after trying to rescue the girl.
    • The human chain was criticized by the beach’s safety director for being too dangerous.

A group of Florida beachgoers joined forces to save a life by creating a human chain in the water — and though their mission was successful, officials are warning of the dangers of forming such chains.

Beachgoers formed a human chain to pull out someone drowning along the Panama City Beach.

On Wednesday at around 1 p.m., a girl swimming in the water was in distress, reported WMBB, an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Panama City.


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Two women decided to save the young girl — one woman succeeded in rescuing the girl, but the other woman needed to be rescued after getting herself stuck.

The second rescue was commenced as tourist Ryan Stelmachers jumped on board to rescue the woman on a raft, and eventually, four more others jumped in the water.

"The current kept pulling us out, pulling us out, pulling us out," Stelmachers said. "Every time we'd take one step forward, it would take us back three steps."

Stelmachers and his wife Briana thought it was a good idea to form a human chain to pull everyone back on shore.

"I've swam in a lot of oceans and done a lot of things, and I've never experienced anything like that. It's real. Mother nature is no joke," he continued. 

The human chain consisted of 12 people.

Although the 12-man chain successfully pulled everyone to safety out of the rough waters, beach safety director Wil Spivey, who manages rescues for Panama City Beach fire department, disavowed it, according to People Magazine

"We're happy that everybody made it out safe yesterday, super thankful for that, but it can go the other way and a single victim can turn into multiple victims or a mass casualty incident," Spivey said. "I wouldn't advocate that anybody who's not trained to effect rescues enter the Gulf to make rescues. Even if you're a good swimmer, you can get overpowered by the conditions or the victim if they climb on top of you."


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Published on Apr 17, 2021