[Video and Photos were provided to Ocala Post by Simon Besner, a Canadian tourist whom was vacationing in Daytona and happened to be in the right place at the right time, allowing him to capture the terrifying incident on camera. Material may not be copied and redistributed without consent.]
911 Call prior to Ebony Wilkerson Driving Her Kids Into the Ocean.
Daytona Beach, Florida — A pregnant mom from South Carolina tried to kill herself along with her three children on March 4, 2014.
Prior to the mom, 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson, attempting a murder suicide, Daytona Beach Police received a 911 phone call from her sister requesting a well being check. During the call the dispatcher said, “I don’t understand why you need a well being check.” The sister tried to explain that Wilkerson was hearing voices and though she had demons in [her] house. She said that Wilkerson had driven from South Carolina because her husband had been beating her for some time. The sister stated that Wilkerson was trying to drive and she (the sister) was trying to stop her.
Police pulled Wilkerson over and spoke with her as well as the children. Police said that there was not enough evidence to “Baker Act” Wilkerson and that it only seemed as if she was having some sort of crisis, but she and the children seemed fine. They did say that Wilkerson told them she was terrified that her ex-husband was going to find the children and herself and cause them harm.
A few hours later, Wilkerson, with her three children seat belted in, drove her minivan directly into the Daytona Beach ocean.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office has assumed the lead role in investigating Tuesday’s incident. All four were rescued from the vehicle and the incident didn’t result in any serious injuries. Wilkerson is undergoing a mental health evaluation and the three children have been turned over to the care of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
The incident began at about 4:56 p.m. on Tuesday, near the beach approach on Silver Beach Avenue. A beach safety officer reported seeing a Honda Odyssey van with a South Carolina tag driving recklessly on the beach. The vehicle drove southbound in the surf, parallel to the shore, before turning east and driving into approximately 3-4 feet of water.
As additional beach safety officers arrived on scene, the van was floating and was almost completely submerged in the water. The incident also attracted several bystanders who were running in the water alongside of the van trying to get the driver to stop. The van eventually came to a halt approximately ¾-mile south of the Silver Beach approach. Waves were crashing into the van as it was being pulled by the ocean, making it difficult to rescue everyone inside the van.
With the help of the 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. Beach personnel along with paramedics from the County’s ambulance service and the Daytona Beach Fire Department tended to the mother and children. All four were then taken by ambulance to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach. Meanwhile, beach safety officers managed to attach a tow rope to the van and pull it to shore.
The first rescuer to make it to the minivan said that two of the children in the back seat were holding their arms out crying, saying “mommy’s trying to kill us please help.”
After the older children were rescued from the minivan and being carried to shore, the children mentioned the baby. Wilkerson had refused to tell anyone there was a baby in a booster seat still in the van as it started to sink. Witnesses said the Wilkerson had no expression on her face at all. She was described as “spaced out.”
“We’re looking to see if criminal charges are going to be appropriate, or if this is a medical issue,” said Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson.
“If the officers had made any statement that she was suicidal, or that she was homicidal, that she was a danger in any way, Daytona officers would have taken her into custody under the Baker Act,” Johnson said. “But she made no statement that would indicate that, so they had nothing that they could go on to take her into custody.”