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'Sophia's Law,' Prompted By 7-Year-Old's Death, Takes Effect

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A new law takes effect Monday in Minnesota that is the first of its kind in the nation.

Sophia's law requires carbon monoxide detectors on certain boats.

The law was named after 7-year-old Sophia Baechler, who died while sleeping on her family's boat on Lake Minnetonka.

Sophia Baechler CO Poisoning
(credit: CBS)

Dr. Courtney Baechler told lawmakers how her 7-year-old daughter Sophia laid down in the cabin of the family boat for a quick nap and died within 10 minutes from carbon monoxide poisoning.

That testimony led to a new law, Sophia's law, that requires certain boats to have carbon monoxide detectors on board.

"Frankly, I wish we didn't have to react to a tragedy, but being the first in the nation and bringing awareness to an issue that is pretty common in terms of the likelihood that we are in a boat in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes, it's something that makes reasonable sense for us to be a leader on," said Senator Melisa Franzen.

Senator Melisa Franzen sat with Dr. Baechler that day as she spoke to lawmakers.

Now she is working with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to spread awareness about Sophia's law.

"With new laws we like to use it as an educational opportunity to let boaters know of the dangers of carbon monoxide and really learn how they can protect themselves," said Stan Linnell from the DNR.

Linnell says boats that are longer than 16 feet and have enclosed spaces like a sleeping quarters, galley or toilet must comply with Sophia's law.

"The DNR is sending stickers to all the boat licensees and you'll see a lot of education pushing forward this boat season," Franzen said.

DNR officers and sheriff's deputies will pass out stickers that are required to be displayed by the boat's helm, stern and cabin.

Warnings Franzen hopes will one day be required on all boats in the U.S.

"We are actually working with the family, the Baechlers, to potentially push this at the federal level," Franzen said.

The carbon monoxide detectors must be marine rated and can either be hardwired or battery powered.

The DNR says its officers will focus on educating the public during this first year of enforcement.

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