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Teens make frantic cellphone calls as mother drives them into river

In an apparent murder-suicide attempt, a 49-year-old mother allegedly drove her three teenagers into the Delaware River this week, prosecutors said. 

Joann Smith’s van was partially submerged in the river after it accelerated onto a boat ramp and into the water near Florence, N.J., prompting a Good Samaritan to rush to the rescue and pull the four occupants from the sinking van, leaving only one child injured with cuts to a leg.

On Thursday, Joann Smith’s initial appearance in Burlington County Superior Court was postponed to at least Monday, prosecutors said. Smith has been charged with three counts of attempted murder and three counts of endangering the welfare of children. She’s being held in jail in lieu of $600,000 bail.

Smith was expected to undergo a medical evaluation. Her husband, Jeffrey Smith, told the Associated Press that she’s been taking medications for an unspecified mental health issue that she's struggled with for more than a decade. When reached by phone Thursday, Smith declined comment to the Los Angeles Times.

Smith also told the AP that the teens -- ages 13, 14 and 15 -- had been on the phone with him and trying to reach 911 as the van hit the water.

The rescuer told KYW-TV that the saw the van drifting away and rushed out to help from the riverside road.  

“I swam out to the car,” Darnell Taylor told the television station. “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.”

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