RALEIGH, N.C. – The tragic death of a teenage girl may soon lead to big changes in state law.
Sheyenne Marshall of Carbarrus County, which is close to Charlotte, died in a boating accident last year on the Fourth of July weekend.
Her family was in Raleigh Thursday lobbying for change. They want to see stronger penalties for those who are drunk when they get behind the wheel of a boat.
“We hope that families don’t have to go what we had to go through,” said an emotional Kenny Marshall, Sheyenne’s father.
Kenny Marshall described his daughter as “a character” who was full of happiness.
Sheyenne, 17, dreamed of becoming a nurse like her mother and sister. Those dreams were lost when she was in a boating accident on Lake Norman.
“It was an accident and we didn’t know until we got there,” Kenny Marshall said.
Sheyenne Marshall was on the water on a kneeboard when she was struck by a passing boat.
Authorities said the driver was impaired. But under current law, boating while impaired can only be a misdemeanor in North Carolina.
“As soon as we all found out, we felt like something needed to be changed,” Kenny Marshall said.
The Marshall family went to work contacting lawmakers. On Thursday, what has been called Sheyenne’s Law unanimously passed the North Carolina House.
“To me, it’s totally irresponsible to get behind the wheel of a car or operate a boat under the influence,” said Rep. Larry Pittman, a Republican and sponsor of the bill.
The bill would create felony charges for impaired boaters who cause a death or serious injury.
That means stronger penalties, too.
Depending on the boater’s record, they could get up to eight years in prison.
“If we can save one life or keep someone from being injured, at least something good has come out of this,” Kenny Marshal said.
There’s now a softball tournament in Marshall’s memory. Pittman said seven people died in alcohol-related boating accidents in North Carolina last year.
The bill now moves to the Senate.