Crime & Courts

Officer: Boater in fatal Lake Norman wreck had 0.14 blood alcohol content

A man had a blood alcohol content of 0.14 when his boat struck and killed 17-year-old Sheyenne Marshall as she was knee-boarding on Lake Norman on July 4, according to a law enforcement report.

The legal limit for operating a vessel or vehicle in North Carolina is a BAC of .08.

Keith Owen Cerven, 49, of Mooresville, was charged with boating while intoxicated, involuntary manslaughter and operating a boat in a reckless manner. He has an Aug. 25 court date in Iredell County District Court.

The wreck happened at about 8 p.m. in the McCrary Creek area of the lake.

Marshall was being towed by a 19-foot ski boat driven by Christopher McConnell, 24, of Franklin, Wildlife Officer Scott Strickland said in the report. McCrary Creek is in southern Iredell County.

It was Marshall’s first time knee-boarding, and the Concord youth had a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device on, Strickland said.

Six others, ages 15 to 21, were on board Marshall’s boat, taking turns knee-boarding, the officer said. Little boat traffic was around.

McConnell was heading upstream when he noticed a pontoon boat headed in the same direction about 175 to 200 yards behind. The 24-foot pontoon boat was traveling about 20 mph, according to the report.

When McConnell turned his boat left to return to a home, he looked back and saw the other boat following right behind. Realizing the other boat might hit his boat, McConnell said he then straightened his boat and began heading north, according to the report.

McConnell told investigators he thought the other boat was going to run over the tow line and miss his boat and Marshall.

Just before impact, Cerven’s boat turned to the right, putting the craft in a direct line with Marshall. She was hit by the left side of the pontoon boat and went under water, the report said.

McConnell made a hard turn to check on Marshall. He and a passenger jumped from the ski boat and got Marshall back on board, but she was badly injured and McConnell believed she was dead.

Cerven drove his pontoon boat past the ski boat, turned left, circled back and then headed west before getting stuck on a sand bar/shoal, according to the report.

Three of Cerven’s four passengers jumped off the boat and ran away, Strickland said in the report.

Cerven pushed the boat off the shoal but stayed in the area until officers arrived, Strickland wrote.

Cerven had failed to give way to the other boat before the collision, Strickland wrote. “It was the duty of (Cerven’s boat) in this situation to stop, slow down, or change course.”

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak