DAYTONA, FL - Florida authorities have announced they will charge the South Carolina mother who drove into the ocean with three counts of first-degree attempted murder.
Officials said Ebony Wilkerson's son tried to fight her for the steering wheel while she drove into the ocean.
Authorities said Wilkerson, who is pregnant, drove the vehicle with her three children -- ages 10 , 9 and 3 -- into the water just before 5 p.m.
Officials said Wilkerson, 32, told her children to "go to sleep" and that she was "taking them to a better place."
Tim Teseneer, a volunteer firefighter in Rutherfordton, was on vacation driving on Daytona Beach with his wife and two children Tuesday when they saw the minivan in the water and the waves pounding on the doors.
At first, he thought the driver was joking, but then he heard a frightening sound.
"I heard them yelling for help,” Teseneer said.
Teseneer said his natural instincts kicked in. He took off running. He was the first person to get to the minivan and he said he tried to convince the woman to turn around.
WEB EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: NC firefighter helps rescue woman, children from ocean
"She had her hands on the wheel and she looked back and said, ‘We're going to be fine,'" Teseneer said.
Teseneer said the children's screams shook him to his core.
“The boy said our mom is trying to kill us,” Teseneer said.
Officers stopped Wilkerson, who is from South Carolina, and spoke with her a couple of hours before she drove into the water, but said they said they did not have cause to detain her.
Wilkerson is in custody and on her way to jail, police said.
WFTV learned that Wilkerson had recently filed a police report alleging her husband had assaulted her. Authorities in Myrtle Beach, S.C., said Wilkerson filed the report March 1, saying her husband assaulted her while they were vacationing there.
- Volunteer firefighter helps save woman, children from van in ocean
- Dramatic rescue after van full of kids is driven into ocean
Mother who drove van into ocean charged with attempted murder
Wanted man crashes car on South Boulevard after fleeing police
Man killed when car T-boned by school bus in Chester County
Obama administration confirms double-digit premium hikes
3 out of 10 'lucky pennies' worth $1,000 found in Charlotte