A South Carolina mom was undergoing a mental-health evaluation Wednesday after driving her minivan with her three young children inside into the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday.
Investigators with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office are working with the Florida Department of Children and Families to figure out what made Ebony Wilkerson, 32, drive into the water – an incident captured on video.
A relative called police shortly beforehand and asked them to check on Wilkerson because she had been acting strangely, they said. She told officers she was afraid of her ex-husband and was trying to find a safe place for herself and her children.
The children are now in DCF custody, spokesman John Harrell said.
DCF investigators are working with South Carolina child-protection agents to determine whether the family, who records show previously lived in Ocoee, Fla., had any documented history of abuse, neglect or mental-health issues.
DCF workers were expected to go before a judge to present their recommendations for custody of the children, ages 3, 9 and 10, within 48 hours.
“They have been through a very rough ordeal,” Harrell said. The family was rescued from the surf by lifeguards and bystanders as the Honda Odyssey bobbed in the waves. Rescuers opened the doors and the trunk to quickly climb in and grab the children.
Deputies say Wilkerson was driving south near the beach approach on Silver Beach Avenue in Daytona Beach just before 5 p.m.
A lifeguard noticed that she was driving erratically on the sand. The van was moving parallel to the waterline when Wilkerson suddenly turned the steering wheel east and drove into the water, deputies said.