Girl Called Dad for Help After Mom Drove Kids Into River

By NBC10.com Staff
|  Thursday, Apr 17, 2014  |  Updated 6:17 PM PDT
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The husband of the woman who police say tried to kill her three teenage children by driving her minivan into the Delaware River tells NBC10's Ted Greenberg that his wife has been suffering from mental illness for several years.

NBC10, Ted Greenberg

The husband of the woman who police say tried to kill her three teenage children by driving her minivan into the Delaware River tells NBC10's Ted Greenberg that his wife has been suffering from mental illness for several years.

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The husband of a New Jersey woman accused of driving their three children into a river says one of the teens called him from the sinking van.

Jeffrey Smith tells The Associated Press his daughter then kicked out a window and was rescued by Darnell Taylor, a good Samaritan who was driving by when the car hit the water.

"I got out of the car and heard people screaming," Taylor told NBC10.com on Wednesday. "I took off my jacket, jumped in and swam out there."

Taylor also helped Smith's wife, Joann Smith, and two of their sons get out of the car. Smith says the boys had called 911 from the submerged vehicle.

Smith says he was running errands with a fourth child Tuesday when his wife allegedly drove down a park boat ramp and into the Delaware River in Florence Township on Tuesday.

Ice cream shop owner Debbie Partyka said Joann Smith had just purchased ice cream for the teens before the alleged attempted drowning.

"I could feel something was going on but I didn’t expect that,” she said. “Just something was a little off. But you know me, she’s having a bad day, people have that so, I never expected anything like this."

Joann Smith is charged with attempted murder. She was due to have her first court appearance on Thursday, but that was postponed as she awaited a mental evaluation.

A spokesperson for the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office said the evaluation was underway Thursday afternoon.

Jeffrey Smith said Thursday that his wife has been battling mental illness for more than a decade.

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