Sophia's Law takes effect, requiring carbon monoxide detectors on certain boats

A new state law takes effect May 1 in Minnesota requiring carbon monoxide detectors on certain boats.

In October 2015, 8-year-old Sophia Baechler died while napping on her family’s boat on Lake Minnetonka. The tragic accident happened while the little girl was resting in the lower cabin.  She was only there for about 10 minutes before succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Investigators later discovered a hole in the exhaust that allowed the silent but deadly gas to fill the sleeping area. While rare, the Baechler family pushed to change the law to avoid another preventable death.

The new requirement, known as Sophia's Law, now requires marine-certified carbon monoxide detectors on all covered motorboats with an enclosed area for sleeping and a galley with a sink and toilet compartments. Other boats with enclosed areas that don't have a sink and toilet areas are required to post three warning stickers about the dangers of carbon monoxide.

Local DNR offices and marinas, however, have not yet received the required stickers due to a shipping delay, but DNR officials say the central office has them and will be sending them to agencies across the state in the next few days. 

In Sophia's case, authorities are convinced a small animal was likely to blame for chewing a hole that allowed the fatal gas into the cabin area. But people have even been known to get sick while lying on the back deck or tubing too close to the boat, which is why the DNR recommends not idling while anchored or docked.

With Sophia’s Law taking effect, Minnesota will be the first state in the country to require the carbon monoxide detectors on boats.