BRUNSWICK CO., N.C. (WGHP) — The first conviction of death by impaired boating in North Carolina was reported on Tuesday after an investigation led by N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission law enforcement officers.

Matthew Ferster, of Brunswick County, pleaded guilty to three counts of death by impaired boating, also known as Sheyenne’s Law, on Aug. 28, according to a NCWRC news release.

He was sentenced to 9 1/2 to 18 1/2 years in prison after a March 2020 boating crash that resulted in the deaths of Jennifer Hayes, 26, Megan Lynn, 21 and Garret Smith, 21.

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 and ended with the first conviction of Sheyenne’s Law in the state.

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 was 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 two misdemeanor, Marshall’s family lobbied the N.C. 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. “The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission would like to thank each of the assisting agencies for their time and dedication during this investigation. Partnerships such as these allow for successful prosecution of crimes and justice for the victims.”