Dozens of beachgoers create human chain to try and save two swimmers from rip currents

A human chain rescue formed Sunday to help two swimmers caught in a rip current at Panama City Beach.

The man and woman went into the water despite seeing two flying red flags, which tells beachgoers the beach is closed because of dangerous swimming conditions.

The conditions were caused by Hurricane Barry as it made its way through the Gulf of Mexico and landed in Louisiana.

The video shows more than a dozen people in the water — hands linked — fighting against the incoming waves, trying to reach the two swimmers. At least one rescuer was filmed trying to swim out to them.

“Our Panama City Beach first responders highly discourage this type of rescue attempt as it can easily double the number of victims,” said Debbie Ward, public information officer for the city of Panama City Beach. “Often the rescuers need rescuing. It puts many lives in danger.”

That’s exactly what happened Sunday, according to a witness on Twitter, when a responding deputy also ended up needing to be rescued.

All three rescues were successful.

“Talk to the sheriffs officer afterwards he had a belly full of salt water and was going to be sick for a while,” The user tweeted.

The city gets thousands of visitors on any given day in the summer, according to officials. Visitors and residents, they said, need to pay attention to the flags. It’s for their safety, they said.

“Multiple calls for swimmers in distress. Please avoid getting in the water,” Panama City Beach Fire Rescue wrote on Facebook Sunday. “The decision to ignore the warnings has impacts far beyond the swimmer that becomes distressed.”

There was approximately 90 rescues on the city’s various beaches from Friday through Monday, with at least 18 happening Monday, according to Ward.

There were two drownings, she said.

A 61-year-old man from Chattanooga Tennessee, who was pulled out of the gulf waters by the 15000 block of Front Beach Road and passed away shortly after being taken to a hospital Monday. The other was a 67-year-old resident of Panama City Beach who was found behind Runaway Island Sunday.

The beaches had a single and double red flag flying respectively.

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