911 call from sister reveals mother's state of mind before driving into ocean

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (WCSC) - A South Carolina woman who drove her mini-van into the ocean at Daytona Beach with her three kids inside is from Cross in Berkeley County, according to authorities in Florida.

Police say they interviewed her two hours before the Tuesday afternoon incident but the woman was released because she showed no signs of being suicidal.

According to police, the woman's sister called police just hours before the incident. In the 911 call she told them her sister was being abused by her husband.

"She came to me for protection, and I'm trying to keep them safe because she's not well enough to drive."

Investigators did say the woman told them she was going to an abuse shelter before she drove the mini van into the ocean. According to authorities, the mom who is pregnant, had her 3-year-old, 9-year-old and 10-year-old in the vehicle.

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office say all four were rescued and no one suffered serious injuries.

The mother is undergoing a mental health evaluation and the three children have been turned over to the Florida Department of Children and Families, according to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators say at about 4:56 p.m. a beach safety officer reported seeing a Honda Odyssey van with a South Carolina tag driving recklessly on the beach.

The van drove in the surf parallel to the shore before turning and driving into approximately 3 to 4 feet of water.

As additional beach safety officers arrived on scene, the van began floating and was almost completely submerged in the water.

Several bystanders ran into the water alongside the van, trying to get the driver to stop. The van eventually came to a halt.

Tim Tesseneer, of North Carolina, was one of the rescuers.

"He said, I think it was the little boy said, 'please help us, our mom's trying to kill us'," Tesseneer recalled.  "And when he said that, I just, I lost all feeling, and I could think about was, 'we're getting the kids out, no matter what'."

With the help of the bystanders, beach safety officers were able to remove two girls and a boy, including a toddler who was strapped into a booster seat.

Tesseneer said the children's mother just wandered off while the children were recovered.

"She wouldn't speak to nobody. She didn't speak to the cops, she didn't speak to lifeguards," Tesseneer said.

The children and their mother were taken by ambulance to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach.

Copyright 2014 WCSC. All rights reserved. WFLA contributed to this report.