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Man Saves Family After Mom Purposely Drives Into River: Police

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A mother was arrested after she allegedly intentionally drove her van into the Delaware River while her children were inside. NBC10's Nefertiti Jaquez speaks to the Good Samaritan who helped save the family. (Published Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014)

    A man swooped in to save a South Jersey family after a mother allegedly tried to kill her teenage children.

    Darnell Taylor is mourning the loss of his father, who died from cancer Wednesday morning. Yet while Taylor is now coping with the tragedy, he can take solace in the fact that he prevented another one from happening just a day before his father's death.

    Police say 49-year-old Joann Smith was driving her van on West Front Street in Florence Township, N.J around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. With her 15, 14, and 13 year-old children inside the vehicle, Smith allegedly accelerated onto a boat ramp and into the Delaware River.

    Investigators say she was intentionally trying to kill her children.

    Taylor says he was driving to dinner with his wife when he noticed the vehicle partially submerged in the water and the family trapped inside.

    "I got out of the car and heard people screaming," Taylor said. "I took off my jacket, jumped in and swam out there."

    Taylor swam towards the family while his wife called 911.

    "I couldn't get the window open because the window in the van was not a pop out window," Taylor said. "So I kept telling the young lady to kick the window out and she kicked it out."

    One by one, Taylor grabbed Smith, her daughter and two sons to safety. Taylor claims Smith didn't say anything during the rescue except for "Thank you."

    One of the children suffered cuts on the leg while Smith was checked into a medical facility for a mental evaluation.

    Police claim Smith intentionally drove the van into the water. She was arrested and charged with three counts of attempted murder and three counts of child endangerment.

    Smith’s bail was set at $600,000. Officials originally said that Smith would likely appear in Superior Court in Mount Holly Thursday afternoon. Thursday morning however they said her first appearance wouldn't occur until Monday morning at the earliest.

    Detectives with the Florence Township Police Department along with officials from the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office are investigating the case.

    Smith's three children are currently staying with relatives, shaken by their terrifying experience but still alive thanks to Taylor.

    "He was a godsend," said Bob Lane, a Florence Township resident. "He saved them. That water is not warm and he jumped in."

    While many people are calling him a hero, Taylor disagrees.

    "I'm not a hero," he said. "I'm just a member of this community and anyone else would have done the same thing."