TODAY   |  March 07, 2014

Mom who drove minivan into ocean has troubled past

New details have emerged about the troubled past of the mom who drove her minivan into the ocean with her children inside, along with questions about why she wasn’t stopped after her sister called 911. The children are safe as the mom continues to undergo evaluation. NBC’s Janet Shamlian reports.

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>>> this half hour with new details in a sad story. learning about the mother who drove her minivan into the ocean. this morning, lingering questions about why she was not held in custody that day after she was stopped by police. and we're learning more about her past, as well. here's nbc.

>> reporter: unforgettable images of a tragedy averted.

>> could it have been stopped earlier? the driver's sister called 911 two hours prior worried about her sister's mental state .

>> are you trying to see if you can get her baker-acted?

>> um, if necessary.

>> allows someone to be involuntarily committed for possible mental illness or if they're deemed a harm to themselves or others. after the 911 call, daytona beach police confined the woman, but she showed no signs of meeting the requirement of the baker act . police chief said they couldn't hold her.

>> i just need you to check her out. she's a little off. well, under the florida statute, being a little off is not enough to be baker-acted.

>> and there's this strange note of what happened in daytona. the same woman was linked to a fatal car accident in 2007 . according to documents, she was driving on i-95 and changed lanes causing another driver to lose control and crash. passenger in that car died. the mother paid a fine, her driver's license was suspended and she was ordered to serve community service . this time, citizens prevented a tragedy. the children are safe as their mother continues to be evaluated. nbc news, daytona beach .

>> story gets more difficult with each passing day.