Follow CBSMIAMI.COM: Facebook | Twitter

PANAMA CITY BEACH (CBSMiami) – Dozens of strangers came together to form a massive human chain to save a family from a rip current off Panama City Beach.

It all started when Roberta Ursrey heard her two sons screaming for help in the ocean. She and three other adults from her family sprang into action to save the boys, but only got themselves swept up in the current.

“I honestly thought I was going to lose my family that day,” Ursrey said, via the News Herald. “It was like, ‘Oh, God, this is how I’m going.'”

Jessica Simmons didn’t realize what the commotion around the beach was. She thought it may have been some marine life before finding out it was an emergency. Without a lifeguard on duty, Simmons and her husband Derek decided they were going to help.

“These people are not drowning today,” Jessica Simmons said. “It’s not happening. We’re going to get them out.”

For 20 minutes, Ursrey, the rest of her family as well as other swimmers were fighting for their lives. Meanwhile, beachgoers began to form a human chain, that got longer and longer as the Simmons’ swam out.

The brigade eventually reached about 80 beach goers who locked arms. The Simmons’ grabbed the children first, who was passed down the chain back to shore. One by one, each of the swimmers caught in the tide was brought back safely on shore thanks to that chain.

“It was the most remarkable thing to see,” said Jessica Simmons. “These people who don’t even know each other and they trust each other that much to get them to safety.”

Ursrey’s mother had a heart attack, who is in the hospital but stable, and Ursrey herself barely hung on long enough. She remembers telling rescuers to “save themselves” as she blacked out. The next thing she remembers was waking up safely on shore, thanks to those she calls “God’s angels.”

“These people were God’s angels that were in the right place at the right time,” said Ursrey. “I owe my life and my family’s life to them. Without them, we wouldn’t be here.”

More From CBS Miami

Get Your Daily DoseHere's some good news just for you.
Weather Forecast 24/7Check for current temps and what to expect throughout the day
CBS4 New Home For Florida Lottery

Watch & Listen LIVE