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Three children rescued from van caught in waves at Florida beach

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Rescuers pulled three children from a minivan tossing in the surf at a Florida beach after their mother drove them into the Atlantic Ocean, according to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.

The mother, whose name has not been released, was undergoing mental health evaluation, according to the sheriff's news release Wednesday afternoon. No one was seriously injured.

A videotape of the rescue recorded by a Canadian tourist and aired by television stations showed lifeguards and bystanders at Daytona Beach frantically pulling the children, ages 3, 9 and 10, out of the van as it bobbed in the waves on Tuesday.

The toddler was strapped into a booster seat.

"The two in the back seat (were) crying, with their arms out, saying, ‘Our mommy's trying to kill us. Please help,'" one of the rescuers, Tim Tesseneer, told WESH, the NBC affiliate in Orlando.

Daytona Beach is popular for legal driving on its hard-packed sand. A beach safety officer at about 5 p.m. Tuesday noticed a Honda Odyssey minivan with South Carolina tags driving recklessly southbound in the surf, according to the release.

Bystanders were running alongside the van trying to get the driver to stop. The van suddenly turned east into the water.

The tourist's video showed waves cresting over the van as rescuers struggled against window-high water to open its doors and reach the children. The surf lifted and turned the van parallel to the shore, nearly capsizing it.

Paramedics treated the mother and children on the beach and took them to the hospital. The children were released and turned over to the Florida Department of Children and Families. The nearly submerged van was towed out of the ocean.

The mother, who was standing outside the van when the videotape began rolling, was almost pushed under the vehicle by waves, according to WFTV-TV, which also broadcast the footage.

WESH reported the woman was pregnant and identified her as being from South Carolina. The sheriff's investigation is continuing.

(Reporting by Barbara Liston; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Gunna Dickson and Andrew Hay)