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New Jersey mother charged with driving teens into Delaware River

By Dave Warner

(Reuters) - A New Jersey mother of three teenagers was charged on Wednesday with attempted murder and endangering the welfare of children after allegedly driving her minivan into the Delaware River with them inside, authorities said.

Joann Smith, 49, is accused of driving the minivan off a boat ramp in Florence, about 18 miles south of Trenton, New Jersey, according to authorities.

Smith and her three children, ages 13, 14 and 15, escaped from what authorities described as the partially submerged vehicle with the help of an area man, who was not identified.

They all made it to shore safely, with one child suffering a cut leg, authorities said.

"The investigation revealed that the van accelerated and headed directly into the water," according to a statement from the Burlington County, New Jersey prosecutor's office.

Joel Bewley, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office, had no estimate of how far into the river the vehicle went except to say it was "not far."

"It was not entirely submerged," he said.

Smith, of Florence, was checked into a medical facility for evaluation, Bewley said.

She was being held on $600,000 bail and was likely to appear in Superior Court in Mount Holly on Thursday, according to the statement.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Gunna Dickson)