NC man pulls children from van after mom drives into Fla. surf - - Jackson, MS

NC man pulls children from van after mom drives into Fla. surf

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Officers interviewed a pregnant woman just two hours before she drove her minivan — with three children inside — into the ocean in Florida, but they had no grounds to stop her, authorities said Wednesday.

Ebony Wilkerson, 32, of Cross, S.C., was undergoing a mental health evaluation a day after the incident on Daytona Beach, Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said.

The three children — two girls and a boy ages 10, 9 and 3 — were pulled from the van by bystanders and weren't seriously hurt, officials said. They were in temporary custody of the state Wednesday.

It could have been a very different story, said Mark Swanson, director of Volusia County Beach Safety. The surf was heavy and the water was frigid, and had the children stayed in the water just a few minutes longer, "they would have been victims," he said.

Johnson said Wilkerson's family called authorities a couple of hours earlier Tuesday afternoon because they were concerned that she had "mental issues." Several officers interviewed the mother, who said she was "afraid of her ex," but because she said she was already heading for an abuse shelter, "they couldn't do anything with her," Johnson said.

No charges have been filed pending the mental evaluation, Johnson said, adding, "Our goal is to make sure she gets into the system for the protection of her and the children."

A Canadian tourist shot video of the episode, which occurred about 4:56 p.m. ET Tuesday. It shows the minivan bobbing in heavy surf while rescuers frantically try to pull the children out through the hatchback and the driver-side door.

One rescuer, Tim Tesseneer of Rutherfordton, N.C., told NBC station WESH of Orlando that the kids were screaming that their mother was trying to kill them.

"The two in the back seat was crying, with their arms out, saying: 'Our mommy's trying to kill us. Please help,'" Tesseneer told the station.

"The kids are like, 'No, there's a baby. There's a baby,'" Tesseneer told WESH. "She (the mother) wouldn't say a word. She didn't tell us nothing about a baby."

The rescuers then saved the small child to get all three children to safety.


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