Mount Pleasant resident Morgan Kiser is on a mission to ensure no one has to deal with the trauma she and her mother suffered on the water on September 21, 2019.
That evening, on what was supposed to be a relaxing after-dinner cruise on Lake Murray with her parents, a high-speed boat ran over the Kisers’ boat. Reacting just before impact, Morgan’s father, Stanley, pushed his wife Shawn out of the way.
Shawn Kiser’s lower leg was severed. Morgan Kiser, then 32, suffered a severe scalp laceration. For over an hour, she attempted CPR on her father while struggling to maintain an ad hoc tourniquet on her mother’s leg. Screaming in the dark for help and crying into a mobile phone as rescue teams struggled to locate her boat, she finally lost her father.
“They are the most important and influential people in your life — the people you look to for your structure, for your safety, for everything you are as a person,” she said. week, choking back tears. “To have these two people cut to pieces in front of you. It was so bad. When we got home, Dad was cold in my arms.
The 53-year-old Elgin man who was driving the getaway boat was eventually charged with navigation under the influence and reckless homicide. The bars that allegedly allowed him to become seriously intoxicated are also the subject of a lawsuit from Stanley Kiser’s estate. The cases have not yet been judged.
In the years that followed, Shawn Kiser moved to Mount Pleasant, where she still receives physical therapy, and Morgan, who runs a kitchen supplies business, became a part-time resident of the Lowcountry, dividing her time between Mount Pleasant and Columbia. Starting with a Facebook group called Safe the Lake, the couple and Morgan’s sister Sloan and brother Pierce have become advocates for boating safety education and legislation in South Carolina.
Despite having one of the highest per capita rates of boat ownership and boating-related deaths in the nation, South Carolina remains one of the few states that does not require boating certification from boating for boaters over 16 years old. It is also perfectly legal to have a drink while driving. a boat, as long as the driver is not intoxicated.
Despite the lack of formal legislative training and with the help of the SC Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), SC Boating and Fishing Alliance Director Gettys Brannon and a host of state politicians, the Kisers have succeeded in getting a boating safety bill, H.3103, through the state legislature. While those under 16 are already required to obtain a nautical education certificate from the SCDNR, the bill would require those born after 2006 to also become certified. The year 2006 is set, so as each year passes, more and more boaters need to get a license.
Kiser and his allies, including Republican SC Sens. Tom Davis of Beaufort and Chip Campsen of Charleston hoped the bill would pass into law during this year’s legislative session. But concerns have been raised by boat rental companies and SC House lawmakers have reportedly scuttled the bill.
Now, in what they hope is a compromise, senators have introduced a proviso in the 2022-23 state budget that would enact a one-year version of the law from July. This would require a quick training course for boat hirers.
Proponents of the bill acknowledge that the measure does nothing to address onboard alcohol consumption or older boaters who actually have the highest accident rates. But Kiser, Davis and Campsen say it’s a start.
“This bill is going to be a very slow-burning bill,” Kiser said. “Nobody is trying to attack anyone. Nobody’s trying to take away anyone’s rights, you know, but my rights were taken away from me to have a parent and not be thrown on a war scene.
Not the same South Carolina
Campsen owns a company that runs the ferry to Fort Sumter. He is an experienced sailor and licensed captain who grew up sailing the open seas and plying the Lowcountry waterways. In years past, he said, he opposed laws requiring boaters to be certified — but not anymore.
“Years ago, part of growing up in the Lowcountry was growing up in a boat,” he said. “It was the way of life. It was like Iowa where just about everyone knew how to drive a tractor. It was before this massive population and migration.
“It’s not the same South Carolina anymore… And the point I want to make is this: You have to have a license to drive a car, don’t you? Well, any idiot can still drive a car because there are traffic lights, lines on the highway. Everything says what you want to do. It’s almost insane. In a boat, there is nothing like it. You need to have a lot more situational awareness. What does the current do? Who has the right of way? What do these flashing lights mean, why are these two lights aligned? When I grew up, people knew what they were doing. It no longer exists. It’s in the dustbin of history unfortunately, which is why I changed my position.
Lawmakers will pick up the condition during the budget reconciliation process starting June 15. It is unclear how the process will unfold. But Kiser is hopeful and said she won’t stop pushing.
“Even after the trial is over, even if dad gets the justice he deserves, mom is going to put that prosthetic leg on and we’re going to remind him of what happened,” she said. “So it’s always going to be something that keeps us going – the idea that she didn’t lose her leg in vain. This daddy didn’t die in vain. Saving lives is just something we won’t stop ever to do. Because we can’t.
This story also appeared in Statehouse report.
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