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.
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.
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.
A witness who helped rescue a family tells WESH 2 in Orlando that one of the children was screaming that their mother was trying to kill them. Tim Tesseneer, of Rutherfordton, N.C., said he was one of the two men to first reach the minivan.
The pregnant mother allegedly drove it into the ocean north of the Silver Beach approach in Daytona Beach Tuesday afternoon. Tesseneer said the woman made a hard turn toward the ocean.
It is possible there was a medical emergency, which could have led the driver to lose control and wind up in the water.
Tesseneer told WESH 2 that one of the children inside was screaming that their mom was trying to kill them.
"The two in the back seat was crying, with their arms out saying 'Our mommy's trying to kill us, please help,'" said Tesseneer.
A bystander's video of the rescue shows a rescuer carrying two children away from the sinking van when the children tell them there was another child inside.
"The kids are like, 'No there's a baby. There's a baby,'" Tesseneer said. "She (the mother) wouldn't say a word. She didn't tell us nothing about a baby."
The men are seen on video frantically trying to get to the small child through the hatchback and the driver's side door.
Video shows that the mother appears disoriented and walks away from the minivan, with the child still inside.
"She had this look on her face," said Tesseneer. "I can't describe it. It was just an awful blank look, like spaced out look."
The mother has been admitted to a local hospital for a mental health examination.
Marris says authorities are investigating. They have not released the family's name or where they were from.
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