Panama City Beach safety officials warn against creating a human chain to save swimmers


PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Last week multiple beach goers linked arms to form a human chain to save struggling swimmers trapped in a rip current in the Gulf.

While the chain was successful and saved lives, safety officials warn against the potential dangers of the human chain.

WATCH: Beachgoers form human chain to save Gulf swimmers

What started as a rescue effort to save a young girl from rough Gulf waters turned into a human chain forming to save four other people.

The little girl was heard screaming in the Gulf for help. That’s when one woman swam out and successfully save her. However, a second woman followed behind to help and got stuck in the current.

Human chain pulls struggling swimmers to safety in Panama City Beach

That’s when Ryan Stelmachers went out with his raft but also got caught in the current. Two more people went out to help but also got stuck.

Stelmachers’ wife then got the idea to form the chain. Everyone was pulled in from the water but Panama City Beach Fire Rescue Deputy Fire Chief, Justin Busch, said they do not advocate the human chain method.

“We do advocate for our citizens and visitors to patronize the beach on a guarded beach and if they do potentially see a rescue that needs to be made that they can reach or throw something a floating object,” Busch said. “But we never want them to go out especially in a human chain just for the potential of what may happen as result of that.”

Busch said he can understand waiting for help and not getting involved can put beach goers in a difficult spot.

“We do our best to staff the beach and have folks that are capable of making those rescues in the Gulf, which can sometimes be treacherous, a little more safely than just the general public could,” Busch said.

Busch is encouraging everyone to be aware of the flag warning system. He said they do not advocate the human chain method because it could potentially turn into more rescues. Busch said a lot of the ‘would be rescuers’ turn into the patient in their drowning incidents.

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