A man was by the beach when he saw a minivan heading towards the ocean, and even heard children inside screaming for help. The man’s only thought was to save the children, so he took off after them.
In March 2014, Tim Tesseneer of Rutherfordton was at Daytona Beach when he saw children in a minivan screaming that their mother was trying to kill them. “I threw my car in park and took off as fast as I could. I’m almost 300 pounds, so that ain’t fast,” Tesseneer told WYFF. “Them kids, the way they looked, outstretched arms, it was just terrifying.”
When he reached the van, he noticed the look on the woman’s face.
“She had this blank stare on her face, and this kid was sitting on her lap trying to steer her away from the water. The two kids in the back seat was like, ‘Help, help, my mom’s trying to kill us,’” he recalled.
Another man, Stacey Robinson, who was nearby with a broken-down vehicle and was waiting for a jump-start, saw the van heading into the water, and he too took off after the van.
Two children were later rescued from the van, and they told their rescuers that another child was still inside.
“The kids are like, ‘No there’s a baby. There’s a baby,’” Tesseneer said. “(The mother) wouldn’t say a word. She didn’t tell us nothing about a baby.”
Fortunately, the baby was rescued in the nick of time. As for the mother, she began climbing out of the van herself and walked away while rescuers were trying to save her children.
“It was adrenaline,” Tesseneer said of the rescue. “It was just instincts of a father, of a human. It just took over. All I could think about was saving those kids. That’s all I cared out. I didn’t care about her. I didn’t care about the van. I wanted those kids. The water was cold. I wanted those kids out and get them in warmth. Get them away from her.”
Though Tesseneer had played a part in saving the children’s life, he wanted people to be aware of Robinson’s actions.
“He needs a lot of credit, because he’s the actual one who laid his hands on those kids,” he said.
Authorities later found that the mother, Ebony Wilkerson, was incoherent and did not answer questions after the incident. They also found that Wilkerson was pregnant and had checked into a domestic abuse shelter before this. In addition, her sister had called the police earlier that day to warn them of her mental health issues and tried to take away the car keys, but was unsuccessful.
After the incident, the children were placed under the care of child protective services while the mother was hospitalized for mental evaluation. Wilkerson was later put on trial. Doctors said that she suffered from mental illness but was no longer a threat. She pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and three counts of attempted murder were dropped.
We’re so glad these heroes acted immediately and saved these poor children.