Gov. Pat McCrory traveled Monday to Cox Mill High School in Concord to sign a bill that will increase penalties for drunken boating that results in death or serious injury.
Known as “Sheyenne’s Law,” House Bill 958 was introduced for Sheyenne Marshall. She was a 17-year-old senior at Cox Mill High who died last Fourth of July weekend on Lake Norman after being struck by a pontoon boar while riding on a kneeboard pulled by another boat.
The driver of the pontoon, whose blood alcohol was twice the legal limit, was charged with boating while intoxicated. But after discovering a disparity between punishments for drunken driving and drunken boating, Marshall’s family approached state Rep. Larry Pittman, a Concord Republican, who introduced the bill signed into law Monday.
Under Sheyenne’s Law, aggravated death or serious injury by impaired boating will become a felony instead of a Class 2 misdemeanor. A fine of $250 is mandatory upon conviction, regardless of other penalties imposed.
The bill was passed unanimously in both the state House and Senate in Raleigh. With McCrory’s signature, the law will go into effect Dec. 1.
McCrory and Sheyenne’s older sister, Montana, spoke before the bill signing to about 200 people – including many who had attended class and played on the girl’s ball team with Sheyenne.
The governor praised the Marshall family for approaching Pittman about passing a bill that could spare other families from the kind of grief they’ve had to endure.
“This is the best of North Carolina, the Marshall family,” McCrory said. “Turning a terrible tragedy into a very positive step in order to save lives.”
Montana, 22, echoed McCrory, saying that “although our (family’s) hearts are still very broken ... there is some comfort in knowing that, because of Sheyenne, there are so many more lives that will be saved.”
McCrory also urged those planning to spend time on N.C. lakes or in coastal waters this Fourth of July weekend to understand that “when you mix a boat with alcohol, you’re asking for trouble.”