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Gov. Tomblin Signs "Michael Cunningham Act" into Law on 3rd Anniversary of BHS Student's Passing

By Jeff Toquinto on May 29, 2013 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

For Kevin and Amy Cunningham, the morning would prove to be more than just a day where they would be meeting with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Today, May 29, was the third anniversary of the death of their son Michael, who passed away on the Memorial Day weekend of 2010.
 
“The whole process has been bittersweet. Getting here today has been a long journey, but we’re glad we’re here,” Kevin Cunningham said. “We’re glad the Governor is here with us.”
 
Tomblin made the trek to Bridgeport this afternoon to ceremoniously sign the “Michael Cunningham Act” into law in front of BHS juniors and sophomores. He did the honors of signing the legislation that is aimed at eliminating or significantly reducing Electric Shock Drowning (ESD) in the same auditorium where Michael once performed as a member of the BHS band.
 
The new law that was passed unanimously by the West Virginia House of Delegates and Senate now requires ground-fault circuit interrupters at boat docks and marinas in public waterways that would disconnect electrical circuits when safe levels are exceeded. It also makes swimming within 100 yards of marinas and boat docks banned in a public waterway and require inspections on an annual basis of each facility’s electrical supply. There are other parts to the legislation including warning signs that swimming in marinas could result in death by ESD. The belief is that having rules in place such as this could have eliminated the possibility of Michael’s death at best or significantly reduced the chances at worst.
 
Tomblin was one of several dignitaries that addressed the students. He pointed to the fact that the law isn’t aimed at curbing the fun had a public marinas, but making the experience safe  for those who would unsuspectingly dive into water that had an electric current flowing into it.
 
“It’s another one of those things we don’t think about all the time,” said Tomblin of swimming near marinas.
 
Hallie Kittle, a BHS graduate and Michael Cunningham’s best friend was with him the day he passed and was also swimming in the marina where Michael lost his life. Like Michael, she was shocked in the water. Fortunately, she was able to survive and share her message today.
 
“I had no idea it was a danger … My best friend was there one minute and gone the next,” said Kittle.
 
What Kittle witnessed and what the Cunningham family has endured led them to what many might consider a crusade to make sure someone else wouldn’t have to go through the same situation. The crusade led them to Harrison County Delegate Tim Miley (D-Harrison). Miley along with his wife Susan, according to both Kevin and Amy Cunningham, were hugely instrumental in getting the legislation.
 
“I think I learned all I needed to know about politics this year,” Amy said with a smile of her time lobbying on behalf of the bill.
 
Senator Sam Cann, D-Harrison, and a Maple Lake resident, said he was impressed by the tenacity of both Kevin and Amy. In fact, he said it may have been unprecedented.
 
“They worked extremely hard,” said Cann. “I’ve never seen anything in 20 years like it.”
 
Although both parents admit the ordeal from lobbying for legislation to getting it passed proved emotionally draining, they both were pleased the finish line was reached today; the third anniversary of Michael’s death.
 
“We’re going to save lives with this,” Kevin said. “ … We mentioned doing this on the anniversary date and didn’t think it would happen. Between Gov. Tomblin taking his time out to be here today and to having the work done by Tim and Susan Miley, I couldn’t be more thankful because this is, as you can imagine, very personal to us.”
 
Editor's Note: Gov. Tomblin arrives at BHS and is joined by Amy Cunningham, right, in the top photo. Bottom photo shows Tomblin signing the ceremonial legislation with members of the Cunningham family, their friends and dignataries this afternoon at BHS. Photos by Ben Queen of www.benqueenphotography.com.


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