Columbus couple helps form human chain rescuing distressed swimm - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Columbus couple helps form human chain rescuing distressed swimmers in Panama City Beach

Shaun and Sarah Jernigan. (Source: Chandler Morgan/WTVM) Shaun and Sarah Jernigan. (Source: Chandler Morgan/WTVM)
(Source: WMBB-TV) (Source: WMBB-TV)
(Source: Leona Garrett) (Source: Leona Garrett)
(Source: WMBB-TV) (Source: WMBB-TV)
Flag Guide (Source: Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism) Flag Guide (Source: Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism)
(WTVM) -

Shaun Jernigan said his children and wife, Sarah, were walking on the beach near M.B. Miller County Pier in Panama City Beach when they saw the distressed swimmers.

"They were just screaming for me to help them and I couldn't get to them,” said Shaun.

“We ran up and down, causing a commotion, and they thought that we had seen a shark," said Sarah.

The Jernigans had spotted a family along with several children stuck in a riptide. The group was struggling to swim their way out of the dangerous current.

“We noticed we couldn't get to them or we would have been stuck with them," said Shaun.

The Columbus couple said the distressed swimmers became stuck in the riptide around 6 p.m. on June 8. After multiple people tried to rescue the family, an even larger group became stuck. That's when the couple said they leaped into action and instructed nearby people to form a human chain.

"We all was just kind of holding each other trying to get out there and get them," said Shaun. "Everyone just kept getting in line to form the chain. We were right in line and it just seemed like a group effort.”

The Jernigan's said another couple, Jessica and Derek Simmons, helped form the chain which quickly turned into over 40 people in the water attached by the arms. The chain was a success and 9 people were pulled to safety through the human chain solely formed by beach-goers.

“Waters are dangerous. It was a yellow flag," said Shaun.

According to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach tourism, a yellow flag means a medium hazard with moderate currents. But the Jernigans even noted back to recent drownings here in the area of the Chattahoochee River.

"People don't understand that the rip current can be very, very strong. Even some of the strongest swimmers can drown,” said Sarah.

Of the nine people rescued one woman still remains hospitalized after a heart attack from the incident. We’re continuing to gather updates on her condition and the family has set up a GoFundMe account here.

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