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N.J. woman drives minivan into water with kids inside

Posted at 11:44 AM, Apr 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-17 11:44:13-04

(CNN) — A New Jersey woman accused of driving a van with her three teenage children into a river has been charged with attempted murder, weeks after a Florida woman drove a minivan with her three children into the Atlantic Ocean.

Police say Joann Smith, 49, of Florence Township sped off a boat ramp into the Delaware River on Tuesday. She’s charged with three counts of attempted murder and three counts of endangering the welfare of children.

A man driving on West Front Street in Florence saw the sinking vehicle and ran out to help Smith and her three children, ages 15, 14, and 13, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office said. One of the children came away from the capsized van with a cut leg.

Smith was checked into a medical facility for evaluation. Her bail was set at $600,000, Florence Township Police Capt. Brian Boldizar said. She will probably have a first appearance in Superior Court in Mount Holly on Thursday afternoon, Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi said.

The incident comes after another mother was accused of driving a minivan into the Atlantic Ocean with her three children in Florida on March 4.

Ebony Wilkerson was charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder, Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said. He said investigators think she was trying to kill her children — ages 3, 9 and 10 — when she drove them into the surf in Daytona Beach.

Bystanders and beach rangers rescued the children from the water. Wilkerson tried to keep rescuers from pulling her children from the minivan and fought her son for control of the steering wheel, Johnson said.

Johnson said Wilkerson told investigators she was trying to drive out of the surf, not into it, and has denied trying to harm her children.

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