Under the Dome

House OKs tougher penalties for drunken boating injuries

The state House on Thursday unanimously approved a bill that would make the penalties for drunken boating resulting in death or serious injury the same as they are for impaired drivers.

House Bill 958, known as “Sheyenne’s Law,” now goes to the Senate.

It was inspired by the death of Sheyenne Marshall, 17, last July Fourth in Lake Norman after she was struck by a pontoon boat while riding a knee board being pulled by another boat.

Rep. Larry Pittman, a Republican from Concord, said the girl’s family approached him about increasing the penalties from the current misdemeanor offense of impaired boating.

“If you kill or injure someone while operating watercraft while impaired, what’s the difference between that and doing the same thing in a car?” Pittman said on the House floor.

A report by legislative staff shows that seven people died and 53 were seriously injured in incidents involving impaired boaters over the past five years.

Sheyenne’s family attended the House session on Thursday.

Correction: An Under the Dome item on May 13 incorrectly said seven people in North Carolina had died from alcohol-related boating incidents over the past five years. There were 10 boating deaths in 2015 alone that were tied to alcohol use.