Florida beachgoers form human chain to rescue family swept away by riptide

The beachgoers formed a human chain to rescue the stricken swimmers. Florida:When Jessica and Derek Simmons first saw the beachgoers pausing to stare toward the water, the young couple just assumed someone had spotted a shark.
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It was the evening of July 8, after all, peak summer season in Panama City Beach for overheated Florida tourists to cross paths with curious marine life. Then they noticed flashing lights by the boardwalk, a police truck on the sand and nearly a dozen bobbing heads about 90 metres beyond the beach, crying desperately for help.

Six members of a single family – four adults and two young boys – and four other swimmers had been swept away by a powerful and deceptive riptide churning below the water’s surface.

“These people are not drowning today,” Jessica Simmons thought, she told thePanama City News Herald. “It’s not happening. We’re going to get them out.”

Jessica and Derek Simmons. Photo: Facebook

She was a strong swimmer and fearless in the face of adversity. But others had tried to reach them and each previous rescue attempt had only stranded more people.

There was no lifeguard on duty, and law enforcement on the scene had opted to wait for a rescue boat. People on the beach had no rescue equipment, only boogie boards, surf boards and their arms and legs.

“Form a human chain!” they started shouting.

Roberta Ursrey was among those caught in the treacherous riptide. From 90 metres away in the Gulf of Mexico, between crashing waves and gulps of salt water, she heard the shouting, she told The Washington Post.

By then, Ursrey and the other eight people stranded with her had already been in the water for nearly 20 minutes, fighting for their lives. Ursrey and the others had ventured into the water to rescue her two sons, Noah, 11, and Stephen, 8, who had gotten separated from their family while chasing waves on their boogie boards.

Tabatha Monroe and her wife Brittany, in Panama City for a birthday getaway, were the first two to hear the boys’ panicked cries for help. The couple had just gone into the water when they saw the boys far from shore. They swam over and grabbed hold of their boogie boards.

But when they tried towing them back to shore, the women couldn’t break free of the current.

They tried to swim straight and they tried to swim sideways, Tabatha Monroe told The Washington Post, but nothing worked. After about 10 minutes, a few young men with a surfboard snagged Brittany and towed her back to shore, just as the number of people who needed rescuing grew.

Soon Ursrey, who had heard her boys cries from the beach, was also caught in the riptide, followed in close succession by her 27-year-old nephew, 67-year-old mother and 31-year-old husband. Another unidentified couple struggled to tread water nearby.

On shore, the human chain began forming, first with just five volunteers, then 15, then dozens more as the rescue mission grew more desperate.

Jessica and Derek Simmons swam past the 80 or so human links, some who couldn’t swim, and headed straight for the Ursreys.

“I got to the end, and I know I’m a really good swimmer,” Jessica Simmons told theNews Herald. “I practically lived in a pool. I knew I could get out there and get to them.”

She and her husband started with the children, passing Noah and Stephen back along the human chain, which passed them all the way to the beach.

By the time Jessica Simmons reached Ursrey, the 34-year-old mother could hardly keep her head above water.

“I’m going to die this way,” Ursrey thought to herself, she toldThe Post. “My family is going to die this way. I just can’t do it.”

Ursrey remembered Simmons coaxing her to carry on.

“I blacked out because I couldn’t do it anymore,” Ursrey said.

She woke up on the sand to the sound of more screams in the water.

Someone yelled that Ursrey’s mother, Barbara Franz, still in the water, was having a heart attack. Simmons told theNews Heraldthat Franz’s eyes were rolling back. At one point, the 67-year-old woman told the rescuers “to just let her go” and save themselves. Instead, Ursrey’s husband and nephew held Franz’s body up as they struggled to keep their own heads above water.

“That’s when the chain got the biggest,” Ursrey said. “They linked up wrists, legs, arms. If they were there, they were helping.”

Nearly an hour after they first started struggling, just as the sun prepared to set, all ten of the stranded swimmers were safely back on shore.

The entire beach began to applaud.

“It was beachgoers and the grace of God’s will,” Ursrey said. “That’s why we’re here today.”

Both Brittany Monroe and Franz were transported to a local hospital. Monroe was later released after being treated for a panic attack and Franz remains hospitalised, her daughter said. She suffered a massive heart attack and an aortic aneurysm in her stomach, but has been taken off the ventilator and is considered to be in stable condition.

The Ursreys plan to meet up with Jessica and Derek Simmons once Franz is released from the hospital, but Roberta said she could give hugs to the dozens of strangers who rescued her family.

“It actually showed me there are good people in this world,” Ursrey toldThe Post.

In aFacebook post, Jessica Simmons expressed a similar sentiment: “To see people from different races and genders come into action to help TOTAL strangers is absolutely amazing to see!! People who didn’t even know each other went HAND IN HAND IN A LINE, into the water to try and reach them. Pause and just IMAGINE that.”

The whole ordeal has given the Ursreys, who just moved to Florida from Georgia a month ago, a newfound respect for the power of the water.

“She’ll take you with her,” Ursrey said. “She almost took nine of us that day.”

The Washington Post

Disney’s search for a diamond in the rough to play Aladdin hits a snag

Casting the lovers in a live-action Aladdin has proved difficult for Disney. Photo: DisneyWanted: one street urchin, with the profile of a prince, and a physique that matches, beneath the dirt and patches, a diamond in the rough.
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The role? Prince Ali, fabulous he, Ali Ababwa, someone who can make the crowds in Agrabah genuflect, show some respect, down on one knee.

Easy, right? Apparently not. The US studio Disney has, according to reports, hit a snag in its pursuit of a star for the planned live action version ofAladdin.

Released as an animated feature in 1992 and based on the storyAladdin and the Magic LampfromOne Thousand and One Nights,Aladdinis the story of a poor street urchin who finds a magic lamp, releases a genie and is granted three wishes.

According to a report inThe Hollywood Reporter, the studio Disney and director Guy Ritchie have been searching for months for the right actor to play Aladdin but have so far come up empty handed.

Among those considered were actors Riz Ahmed (Rogue One,The Night Of) and Dev Patel (Lion,The Newsroom).

The report states the studio is looking for someone of “Middle-Eastern or Indian descent” to playAladdin and Jasmine (both Ahmed and Patel are British actors – Ahmed’s parents were born in Pakistan while Patel’s parents were born in Kenya and are of Indian descent).

In total more than 2000 actors have now read for Aladdin and Jasmine, the report says.

As a result, filming has been delayed.

A planned start date in July won’t be met, which means production in the film will be pushed in the second half of 2017.

Finding a Jasmine has been slightly easier -The Hollywood Reportersays Naomi Scott (Power Rangers,Terra Nova) and Tara Sutaria (The Suite Life of Karan and Kabir) – are possible contenders, but because of chemistry the two lead roles have to be cast together.

To put some context onto why it’s important to get it right, imagine watching aRaiders of the Lost Arkin which Tom Selleck was playing Indiana Jones?

That very nearly happened, until Harrison Ford was cast in the part; the rest, of course, is cinema history. (And about $US2 billion in box office.)

How about Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly inBack To The Future? Stoltz was cast and filmed about half of the movie until he was replaced with Michael J. Fox.

Or David Schwimmer as Agent J inMen In Black? (The role eventually went to Will Smith.) Leonardo DiCaprio as Patrick Bateman inAmerican Psycho? (That went to Christian Bale.) Or even Dougray Scott asWolverine? (Hugh Jackman eventually got the part.)

So what’s at stake? Money, and lots of it.

Disney dipped its toe in the genre in 2014 with a live action filmMaleficent, based on the 1959 animated filmSleeping Beauty. It pulled $US758 million at the box office.

Then the studio produced a live action remake ofCinderellain 2015, directed by Kenneth Branagh. It pulled $US534 million at the box office.

It might have seemed like an investment of diminishing returns, were it not for the recent animation-to-live-action adaptationBeauty and the Beast, which cost $US120 million to make but has so far pulled in $US1.26 billion at the box office.

That of course, changed everything.

How much of that pivoted on Emma Watson playing Belle and Dan Stevens the prince-turned-beast who is redeemed by winning her unconditional love is anyone’s guess, but in a town like Hollywood casting has always been the key.

Dev Patel was reportedly considered for the role of Aladdin. Photo: Getty Images

Having tapped a new vein of revenue, Disney has plans for almost a dozen animation-to-live-action remakes, with titles such asThe Little Mermaid,The Lion King,Mulanon the list.

Using some loose mathematics, we couldeven build an algorithm that says the live action remakes have about three times the box office potential of their animated forebears.

Beauty and the Beast, for example, pulled $US425 million in animated form and has taken in roughly three times that as a live action feature.

SoAladdin, having pulled around $US504 million the first time around, could be looking at something in the $US1.5 billion range at the live action box office.

Which means there is an even bigger payday on the horizon for Disney, and its name isFrozen.

With the original was worth $US1.3 billion in animated form, could Disney be dreaming of a US$3.6 billion payday?

This is why it’s called ‘doing a Queenslander’

Winners when it counts: Queensland triumph late in game two, 2017. Photo: Getty ImagesIf you’re from Queensland then you already know that you have the superior State of Origin team.
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And you already know that dominance is built on a defiant, never-say-die attitude.

No Thurston? Who cares. The Maroons always step up when it counts. And now we have the data to prove it.

Fairfax Media has crunched the figures on the 109 State of Origin games to date, and what’s clear is just how dominant Queensland have been in what US sports broadcasters call ‘the clutch’ – those key moments when the game or series is on the line.

Proud tradition of success: Wally Lewis, Allan Langer and Gary Belcher in 1987. Photo: Fairfax Media

The numbers paint a bleak picture for the Blues and revealQueensland’s empire is built on two pillars: dominating the second half and dominating game three.

The overallpicture​There have been 35 completed three-game Origin series, plus two individual matches in 1980 and ’81, and two matches this year (for the purposes of this exercise we’re ignoring the California excursion of 1987).

Queensland have won 22 titles to the Blues’ 13, while the overall games tally and points scored remains relatively close.

Comeback kingsWatching Origin can sometimes feel like a David Attenborough documentary on repeat.

Off skip the New South Wales gazelles, frolicking happily as they get out in front, only to be mown down by eternally ruthless Queensland lions.

The data supports this, with NSW having actually led at halftime more than Queensland.

As we saw in Game II this year, the Maroons are justifiably famous for their never-say-die attitude.

Thirteen times Queensland have been behind at half-time only to go on to win the match, compared with eight for NSW. The Blues have never come back from more than six points down at half-time to win. Queensland have done it four times.

Winning the tight onesWhat do Cooper Cronk, Allan Langer and Mat Rogers have in common?

They’ve all kicked field goals that won Queensland an Origin. Actually, Cronk’s done it twice.

Of course, not all game threes mean that much. Out of 35 completed three-match series, there have been 17 dead rubbers and 18 series deciders, when Queensland again go up a gear.

The Maroons have beenthree timesmore likely to win in game threes that count.

But it gets worse for Blues fans. Because this chart leaves off Queensland’s wins in the first two Origin titles, which were only one match.

And there have been two draws in Origin history. Both came in game three and resulted in drawn series. But both times Queensland was the defending champion, and so retained the trophy.

Taking this into account, there have been 20 times when both teams showed up at the ground with honours even and the trophy on the line. Queensland have taken home said trophy 16 times.

So can someone remind me again why NSW are favourites for Wednesday night?

Jackie Gillies preparing for life beyond Real Housewives Of Melbourne

AMBITIOUS: Jackie Gillies has plans to take her Shine It Up events around the country and create her own TV show. Picture: Simone De PeakNEWCASTLE reality star Jackie Gillies has plans to launch her own TV show outside of The Real Housewives Of Melbourne.
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Gillies and her husband, Silverchair drummer Ben Gillies, were back in Newcastlethis week to receive the key to the city from Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes at Fort Scratchley.

Thebizarre civic ceremony was filmed for the upcoming season four of TheReal Housewives Of Melbourne. The reality TV showhas giventhe professional psychic a mainstream profile since itslaunchin 2014.

Several of the other Real Housewives cast members -most notably barrister turned-actressGina Liano – have developed their own brands beyond the Foxtel series.

Gillies, 37, already has a successful psychic reading business and a pre-mixed cocktail brand (with her husband),but she has grander designs.

Last weekGillies launched Shine It Up, a motivational speaking eventat Docklands in Melbourne, which was filmed for Real Housewives.

“Shine It Up with Jackie is where I talk about how I’ve manifested the life I have,” the gregarious Gillies tells Weekender. “I’m a visualiser, I believe your thoughts create your reality and I’m just trying to empower men and women.

“I did my first show in Melbourne with300 people there and a lot of people came from Newcastle to come and see.

“I gave psychic vibes and my next step is to create my own show and go around and empower men and women.I’ll also look at creating my own show outside of Real Housewives.”

Jackie GilliesReal Housewives, alongsideLiano,Janet Roach and herarch nemesisLydia Schiavello.Season three ended in explosive fashion, when Gillies accusedSchiavello of spreading gossip andcheating on her husband Andrew Norbury at the Logies.

Lawyer Venus Behbahani-Clark and businesswoman Sally Bloomfield have joinedthecast for season four and Gillies said tensions have dissipated since last year’s fiery finale.

“I’m getting along well with the new ladies and they’ve really shaken up the cast well,” she says.“I will tell you, season four is a pisser.”

Gillies’ localfans will be particularly interested to see how Newcastle is portrayed on the show. And you can rest assured that Gillies’ lethal tongue will lashany of the other women if they dare criticise the city.

“I’m really protectiveand as the seasons go if anybody ever says anything about Newcastle, I’m coming back at you,” she says.

“I said to the producers, ‘that Newcastle is such a beautiful town’ and some of the production guys haven’t been here, so when they did they said ‘Oh my god it’s so magical and beautiful,everyone is so down to earth.’

“We walk around in shirts and thongs and that’s who I am. I really wanted Newcastle to be showcased on the Real Housewives of Melbourne, for four years now, and we finally got here.”

Newcastle Jets beat Weston Bears in pre-season trial

The Jets take on Weston on Tuesday night. Picture: Todd BlackwellJets coach Ernie Merrick was happy with the hitout but said his side looked “rusty” in a 2-0 win over NPL club Weston on Tuesday night.
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Striker Roy O’Donovan looked sharp on debut for Newcastle andfinishedoff a fine team goal in the 15th minute to open the scoring.

Daniel Georgievski, playing at Weston Park in his first game since the A-League grand final, looked classy at left back, and Dimitri Petratos showed flashesof quality.

But Merrick was not exactly thrilled with his side, even if theywere only two weeks into pre-season, had trained Tuesday morning and“weren’t fresh”.

“Blowing out the cobwebs. A bit rusty. Patches of good play,” he told the Herald after full-time.

“Some boys are still getting used to the way I want to play. Clean sheet, scored two goals, hit the crossbar.

“I think we should have done better, though, but I’m always expecting better.

“I have to say the Weston boys put up a really good battle and were probably unlucky not to score.”

Steve Piggott’s young Bears are last in the NPL but showed plenty of discipline and were far from disgraced.

The first goal came when right winger Petratos cut back in and floated a left-ball ball to Andrew Nabbout, whose neat half-volley cutback found O’Donovan for a tap-in.

Nikolai Topor-Stanley should have scored 20 minutes later with a free header at the far post, but the ball ballooned over the bar.

Petratos hit the bar with aleft-foot drive after being well picked out by impressive youth team centre back Pat Langlois.

He then rounded keeper Kane Runge with delightful footwork to put the Jets up 2-0 early in the second half before Merrick replaced most of his starting side.

The Jets were missing centre back Lachlan Jackson, midfielder Devante Clut and defender Nick Cowburn on Olyroos duty. Steven Ugarkovic and Nigel Boogaard were out injured.

Jets starting team: Duncan; Hoffman, Langlois, Topor-Stanley, Georgievski; Koutroumbis, Kantarovski, Brown; Petratos, O’Donovan, Nabbout.