FLORENCE TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) — A mother was charged Wednesday with trying to kill her three teenage children by driving into the Delaware River, the Burlington County Prosecutor and Florence Township Police announced.
“The car was nose down into the water. I heard screaming,” says Darnell Taylor.
Taylor was driving by when he saw what was happening and jumped in to help the three teenagers — ages 13, 14 and 15 — and their mother to safety.
“The car was going under fast. Once the back window got kicked out, the water started coming in through the window and it was filling up even more,” Taylor said.
Crime tape marks where police say 49-year-old Joann Smith drove her van off West Front Street at full speed into the river around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“Screaming like I said and banging on the windows. I swam out to the car. The van, and I told the young girl to kick the window out. She kicked it and kept kicking it and finally it bust open. She jumped into my arms. I swam her to shore and swam back and got her brothers and her mother,” Taylor said.
Joann Smith is now undergoing an evaluation at a facility close by.
“I’m not coming out and talking.”
Through the door, someone living at the home tells CBS 3 everyone is okay, but they want to be left alone.
Off-camera, the owner of Debbie’s Snack Shop just across the street from the launch says she knows the family. Smith was there with her kids moments before getting ice cream and everything seemed to be normal. In their close-knit community just a short distance away, neighbors are still in disbelief.
“You can’t imagine what would drive someone to do something like that,” neighbor John Blakesee said.
Taylor says he’s glad he was there and just did what anyone would have.
“I’m from Florence. This is my community. Anybody here in Florence would have done the same thing,” he said.
Smith has been charged with three counts of attempted murder and three counts of endangering the welfare of children.
Her bail has been set at $600,000.
According to the Burlington County Prosecutor’s office, Smith will likely have a court appearance sometime next week.
An investigation is ongoing.