(WGHP) — The first conviction of death by impaired boating in North Carolina was reported on Tuesday after an investigation led by officers with the state Wildlife Resources Commission.
Matthew Ferster of Brunswick County pleaded guilty to three counts of death by impaired boating, also known as Sheyenne’s Law, on Aug. 28, the commission said in a news release.
Ferster was sentenced to between 9.5 years and 18.5 years in prison for causing the March 2020 boating crash that resulted in the deaths of Jennifer Hayes, 26, of Columbus County; Megan Lynn, 21, of Columbus Count; and Garret Smith, 21, of Columbus County.
Sgt. Matt Criscoe with the Wildlife Commission’s Law Enforcement Division led the investigation, with help from Brunswick County District Attorney investigator Eric Hackney and more than 20 local, state and federal agencies.
The investigation spanned three years. Sheyenne’s Law, which was passed in July 2016, increased the penalty for impaired boating that results in a death or serious injury from a misdemeanor to a felony.
The law is named in memory of Sheyenne Marshall, a 17-year-old from Concord, who was killed by an impaired boater as she was knee-boarding on Lake Norman in July 2015.
After learning that boating while impaired was only a Class 2 misdemeanor, Marshall’s family lobbied the state General Assembly for stiffer penalties for impaired boating. The legislature passed Sheyenne’s Law a year later.
“North Carolina Wildlife Law Enforcement Officers continue to provide a safe and enjoyable recreational boating experience to the boating public through both proactive law enforcement efforts and educational opportunities,” Wildlife Law Enforcement Captain Branden Jones said.