MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This is the time of year when we usually report on drownings. But it’s a successful water rescue that has people around the world talking.

Eighty strangers formed a human chain to rescue to little boys and their family caught in a Panama City rip current.

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After a one-hour team effort, strangers got far enough into the water to save nine family members. Everyone is safe.

On Sunday at Carver Lake in Woodbury, patrons formed a human chain and tried to save a 5-year-old boy. Sadly, it was too late.

Maybe you’ve seen a human chain, or been part of one. There is a technique to it, and it’s certainly worth learning.

YMCA Greater Twin Cities Aquatic Director Shannon Kinstler says that forming a human chain is one of three things you should do if a person goes missing in open water.

No. 1: Scream for help.

“Make a scene, yell, get everybody’s attention say ‘I need help’ and really make sure everyone understands the urgency of my child is missing,” Kinstler said.

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No. 2: Make sure someone calls 911 so they can be en route.

No. 3: Form a human chain. White Bear Lake lifeguard Garrett gave WCCO a demo.

“We’re gonna link our arms, we’re gonna look in the water, we’re gonna walk in a straight line,” Garrett said.

They say older kids and as many adults as possible should stay tight in the chain so more ground is covered using sweeping circular motions to cover the ground, feeling for anything unusual. And you keep looking until water is armpit deep.

Kinstler says the chain makes it safer for everyone.

“The chain gives you the long distance to be able to cover that space, also the security of having somebody right next to you,” Kintsler said.

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Another key factor to water safety is becoming a strong swimmer. Lessons can be expensive, but the Y is offering a chance for free swimming lessons.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield