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$1.2 million bail set for Florida mom who drove kids into ocean

Ebony Wilkerson appears in a booking mugshot released by the Volusia County Sheriff's department in Daytona Beach March 7, 2014. REUTERS/Vol
Ebony Wilkerson appears in a booking mugshot released by the Volusia County Sheriff's department in Daytona Beach March 7, 2014. REUTERS/Vol

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO (Reuters) - A judge set bail at $1.2 million on Saturday for a pregnant woman facing attempted murder charges for driving a minivan carrying her three young children into the surf off a Florida beach, according to jail records.

Ebony Wilkerson, 32, has been charged with three counts of first-degree attempted murder and three counts of child abuse in the incident, which occurred on Tuesday at Daytona Beach.

A tourist's video captured lifeguards and bystanders rushing to help pull the children, ages 3, 9 and 10, out of the van as it was being buffeted by waves in the Atlantic Ocean.

The children had lowered the windows to scream for help, and the oldest child could be seen trying to wrest control of the steering wheel from her mother, investigators said.

Wilkerson got out of the van and then tried to block a beach safety officer from getting to the children, a witness told investigators.

Wilkerson had come to Florida three days before the episode to escape an abusive marriage, according to the arrest affidavit.

The children told investigators their mother had been acting "crazy" since they arrived in Florida, and Wilkerson's sister tried twice to get mental health treatment for her the day before she drove the van into the water, the affidavit said.

Officers from Daytona Beach Police who evaluated Wilkerson before the incident decided that she did not qualify for involuntary mental health confinement, the affidavit said.

Wilkerson had not posted bail and remained in custody on Saturday afternoon.

(Editing by Jonathan Allen and Gunna Dickson)

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