Heroes came together to accomplish a tremendous deed when a regular day at the beach turned into a nail-biting emergency situation.
Tim Tesseneer was on a family vacation near Daytona Beach, Florida, and they were driving beside the beach. Tesseneer was in the driver’s seat and his wife was right beside him when they saw a car on the beach, and thought it strange. His wife picked up her phone to record, because it was so unusual. But then Tesseneer noticed someone seemed to be yelling from the car. As they got closer, Tesseneer realized it sounded like “Help!”
“If they’re yelling ‘help us,’ that’s different,” he says, his wife still recording it all, as he stops the car and unbuckles his seat belt. He then throws open the car door and sprints into action toward the minivan.
As he got to the car, he saw that the situation was worse than he imagined.
There were two children in the back, and one shouted at him, “Help us! Our mom is trying to kill us!”
“All I was worried about was those kids, they were screaming and their outstretched arms, I just didn’t want—” Tesseneer said. “What I did felt natural, I guess.”
From the opposite direction, Stacy Robinson, a college student who had been sitting with his girlfriend in a car on the beach, also saw what was happening and rushed to the rescue.
He got to the car not long after Tesseneer did, and as Tesseneer tried to get the kids out of the car, Robinson ran up to the driver’s side window to try to stop the driver.
The driver was the children’s mother, Ebony Wilkerson, and she was not well.
The two of them yelled out that she needed to stop the car, as one of her children tried to pull the steering wheel from her control.
“And she looked back at us with this awful, blank stare,” Tesseneer said. “I hate to use the word possessed, but that’s what it looked like.”
No matter what they, or the children, said or did, she just kept driving.
It turns out Wilkerson had mental health issues, and had checked herself out of the hospital about a day ago despite the fact that her sister desperately wanted her to get help.
Robinson then noticed a crack in one of the back windows, and was able to pull it down enough so that he could reach in and open the door.
“That’s when I snatched out the boy first and the little girl,” Robinson said.
But then he noticed that wasn’t all.
“I noticed the baby in the car seat,” he said. “She was in the back, behind the passenger seat.”
Meanwhile, lifeguards had rushed over as well, to help get everyone to safety. More onlookers were gathering, and many filmed the incident.
While the rescuers were busy trying to haul the children out of the car, the mother began to climb out her window as well.
And then, she just calmly walked away.
Nearly a minute after the three young children were pulled out of the surf, a huge wave came along, nearly submerging the car.
If the rescuers hadn’t rushed toward the car as quickly as they did, the situation could have been much more dire.
“If it’d been minutes longer the outcome probably would have been different,” said Mark Swanson, director of beach services in Volusia County.
Authorities found that the mother was incoherent and unable to even answer questions after the incident. They also discovered that she was pregnant, and had been in a domestic abuse shelter right before this. She had actually been in contact with the police that same day, and her sister had called 911 to warn them about her mental health issues. Her sister had tried to take her keys so Wilkerson wouldn’t drive with her children in that state, but unfortunately that wasn’t what happened. Afterwards, the children were put in care of child protective services and the mother was hospitalized so she could undergo a mental evaluation.
“I still don’t believe it happened,” Robinson said. “I’m just glad I was there.”
The incident happened in March 2014, and later that year in December, Wilkerson was put on trial. Doctors said she had a psychotic break, and said she was no longer a threat.
She pleaded guilty by reason of insanity, and was cleared of murder charges.