Berkeley Co. family rescued from van submerged in Florida ocean

Rescue on Daytona Beach (Source: YouTube)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP/WCIV) - Rescuers helped pull members of a South Carolina family from their minivan after it became submerged in the Atlantic surf on Florida's Daytona Beach.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports the woman and her children - ages 3, 9, and 10 - somehow ended up in the water around 5 p.m. Tuesday.

According to a police report, the woman's sister called officers for a well being check on her sister, 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson, who had been "talking about demons" before leaving {}home with her three children.

An officer caught up to Wilkerson{}and checked on her and according to the report, she appeared calm and the children were smiling. Wilkerson{}told the officer that she was concerned her ex-husband was going to find her and her family in Florida.

According to the report, Wilkerson{}said she was going to a safe place that she'd already set up with a domestic violence counselor.{}

"It was clear during my conversation that [she] was suffering from some form of mental illness, but she was lucid and did not provide any signs that she met Baker Act requirements," the report reads.

A short time later,{}Wilkerson and her family were rescued from the ocean.

Beach Safety Capt. Tammy Marris says the woman was already driving on the beach, where cars are allowed. It's not clear how the vehicle ended up in the water.

An officer reported seeing the van driving recklessly on the beach, before turning into the water.

"As additional beach safety officers arrived on scene, the van was floating and was almost completely submerged in the water. The incident also attracted several bystanders who were running in the water alongside of the van trying to get the driver to stop," a report from the{}Volusia County Sheriff's Office reads.

Video aired by local TV stations showed rescuers who ran to the scene hurriedly trying to get everyone out of the van as it drifted in the water. The family was taken to Halifax Health Medical Center for treatment.

Tim Teseneer was among those rescuers. He on vacation driving on Daytona Beach with his wife and two children Tuesday when they saw Wilkerson's minivan in the water, the waves pounding on the doors.

"I heard them yelling for help," he said.{}

Teseneer is a volunteer firefighter in Rutherfordton, N.C. His natural instincts kicked in and he took off running, he said. He was the first person to get to the minivan; he says he tried to convince the woman to turn around.

"She had her hands on the wheel, and she looked back and said, 'We're going to be fine,'" Teseneer said.

But the screaming children told him otherwise. Teseneer says the children's screams shook him to his core.

"The boy said, 'Our mom is trying to kill us,'" Teseneer said.

Teseneer's wife captured every second of the rescue on her cellphone as she and their two kids watched from their car. {}Teseneer's 13-year-old daughter Micheal opened her suitcase and gave the children dry clothes.{}

She said she was worried about the three children who were wet and scared. Now she's worried about the trauma they'll endure for years to come.{}

"They have to grow up thinking, 'Why did my mom try to do that? Was I not good enough for her?'" said the 13-year-old Teseneer girl.

Teseneer says he hopes Wilkerson gets help if there's something wrong with her. He said his family had been in Florida on a Disney trip, but decided to cut it short after the emotional rescue.

Wilkerson's vehicle was towed out of the surf. Marris says authorities are investigating.

Wilkerson is undergoing a mental health evaluation and the three children have been turned over to the care of the Florida Department of Children and Families.


Information from: Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal,

The Associated Press contributed to this report. WSOC anchor Allison Latos contributed to this report from Charlotte, N.C. WSOC is the ABC affiliate in Charlotte.