Rutherfordton man honored for rescuing children from van in ocean in Daytona Beach


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - North Carolina Representative Mike Hager recognized and honored Timothy Tesseneer of Rutherfordton on Saturday for his role in helping rescue three children back in March while he was vacationing in Daytona Beach, FL, after a pregnant South Carolina woman drove her van with children inside into the surf

During a special ceremony held outside the Rutherford County Commissioner's Chambers Saturday morning, Hager called Tesseneer a hero for his actions on the beach March 4.

Tesseneer was one of the first people to reach the van as it drifted in the water and hurried to get everyone out of the car.

Tesseneer helped pull the driver and her children - ages 3, 9, and 10 - from the van while the children screamed that their mother was trying to kill them, according to earlier reports.

Tesseneer said the mother seemed disoriented and walked away from the van while he and others were still trying to save the children.

"She had this look on her face," said Tesseneer. "I can't describe it. It was just an awful blank look, like spaced out look."

Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said the mother, 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson, of Berkeley County, SC, has since been charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder and three counts of child abuse causing great harm.

Johnson said the evidence shows Wilkerson drove into the surf and tried to interfere with rescuers trying to help her and her children, a 3-year-old girl, 9-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl.

Johnson said the evidence shows Wilkerson intentionally drove her car into the water. He said Wilkerson told the children to close their eyes and go to sleep, because she was taking herself and them to a better place.

"She definitely tried to kill her children," Johnson said in an earlier interview.

Wilkerson was 27 weeks pregnant when the incident occurred, deputies said. She's being held in the Volusia County Jail and her children were placed in state custody, according to reports.

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