This morning the children of the pregnant mother who drove her minivan into the ocean at Daytona Beach Tuesday afternoon has now been identified as Ebony Wilkerson, 32, of South Carolina. She has family in the area, but it is unclear how long she herself has been in Florida.
All three children, ages 3, 9 and 10 are with the Department of Children and Families, and they are being held in protective custody. They were treated for minor injuries at Halifax Hospital, and they are doing fine.
A family member made a 911 call about the mothers mental state, because she had talked about demons hours before. The caller said, "She's talking about Jesus, that there's demons in the house," said her sister. "She's got the kids in the car with her."
When questioned by police she and the children seemed ok. Wilkerson said she was in route to a safe-house and fleeing a domestic violence situation.
Ebony Wilkerson has not been arrested, but she is being held for a mental evaluation while police try to find out if they have a criminal case. Under Florida's law she cannot be charged until she has been cleared mentally.
Child protective services are also interviewing the children to help the police determine if this case will be handled as mental or criminal.
The dramatic footage shows rescuers and bystanders risking their life to save her children as she escapes the sinking van and walks away without attempting to help.
Witnesses say the children were screaming that their mom was trying to kill them, and one child was seen struggling for the steering wheel. People who seen the incident unfold say her actions were deliberate.
The children rescued from the minivan are the ones who told their hero's about the baby in the car. The mother just watched silently with a blank stare on her face uncaring seemingly whether or not the cold rough ocean waters would be her children's final resting place.
One witness, Taylor Quintin, stated seeing, "a kid in the back waving his arms around screaming, 'Help us! Help us!' And the car kept going deeper; That's when I saw a guy from the beach run over next to the car and take out two small children and walk them back up. Another guy ran out and brought a little toddler out of the car."
Most of those on the scene agree that the "incident was an accident."
Authorities seem to agree that Wilkerson's actions were deliberate. Still, the mother will have to have a mental evaluation before it is determined whether or not Florida law will allow charges to be pressed criminally.
The police issued a press release saying, “With the help of bystanders, beach safety officers were able to remove the occupants – two girls and a boy, including a toddler who was strapped into a booster seat – and take them on shore to safety.”
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating the incident.
Wilkerson wont talk to police at this time, and her children are in the protective custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families only until family members are cleared by a background check to care for them.