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Florida Panhandle beachgoers form human chain to save distressed swimmers

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Posted at 7:00 AM, Jul 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-16 07:07:26-04

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. — (WJHG/CNN) - Dozens of beachgoers in the Florida Panhandle came together Sunday to form a human chain to save two swimmers in distress.

Shelly Callaway didn't know what to think when she got to work at Treasure Island Resort and spotted people outside lined up along the pool railing.

"I immediately ran over to see what was going on, and there were two people that had … went so far out past the waves. It was a double red flag. The current was so rough, that they could not literally swim back in," said Callaway.

She said there must have been 50 to 100 people holding hands. They were “lined up from the beachside out to the waves so they could help the rescuers and help the people come to shore," said Callaway.

Double red flags were flying at the time, which means it's illegal to enter the water.

"You can actually be given a criminal citation or even placed under arrest and taken to jail. We want to avoid that and just have people stay out of the water for their own safety," said Sgt. Mike Morris of the Bay County Sheriff's Office Surf Rescue.

But dozens came together to risk their lives for someone else's.

"I know that there was four to six people out there, two that actually got stuck in the current, and at least four rescuers that were trying to get out there and help," said Callaway.

Although the act might be heroic, the Bay County Sheriff's Office says it is still illegal and dangerous to enter the water, even if you are saving someone.

"I know that seeing somebody in trouble while you're on the sand is a heartwrenching thing to go through, but whenever a deputy gets on scene, if there's already people going out there to help, that's going to add more victims," said Morris.

As proven by the human chain Sunday, civilians ended up needing to be rescued while trying to be rescuers.

"I just think that everybody should take the double red flags seriously, and when you see the double red flags, you need to stay out of the water," said Callaway.