Human chain pulls struggling swimmers to safety in Panama City Beach

Local News

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — A human chain at Emerald Isle Resort saved the lives of multiple people by pulling them out of rough Gulf waters on Wednesday.

Briana Stelmachers, her husband Ryan and two children were on the beach when they heard a little girl caught in the gulf screaming for help.

Beach officials: Do not enter Gulf waters on double red flag days

One woman sawn out to save the girl and succeeded. However, a second woman joined the rescue effort and got stuck in the Gulf. That’s when Ryan Stelmachers and two other people got involved.

“So once my husband got out there, and I saw they were struggling, you know I kind of panicked but you know the strangers held my daughter and watched my son while I could help and everyone got back in safe,” Briana Stelmachers said.

Ryan Stelmachers said he took his raft our to save the woman, but the current was too strong to swim back in.

“The current kept pulling us out, pulling us out, pulling us out, and every time we take one step forward, it would take us back three steps,” Stelmachers said.

WATCH: Beachgoers form human chain to save Gulf swimmers

He said if it weren’t for the human chain, he doesn’t think they would have made it to shore.

“I’ve swam in a lot of oceans and done a lot of things and I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Stelmachers said. “It’s real. Mother nature is no joke.”

He also said Wednesday’s water conditions were the worst he’s ever seen.

“I would take it seriously,” Stelmachers said. “I’m the last person in the world to say that because I’m always like ‘Let’s go to the beach’ you know? ‘It’s no big deal, I’m not scared’ but that was no joke today.”

Single Red flags were flying on the beach at Emerald Isle on Wednesday afternoon. They have since been changed to Double Red. Beach safety officials said they do discourage human chains, as this is not the first time it’s happened on the beach. Even though Wednesday’s rescue was successful, officials say the chains can sometimes also be dangerous and lead to more people being swept out into the Gulf.

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