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North Carolina man convicted and sentenced to 22 years in fatal felony motorcycle crash in NMB

By Ruben Lowman

Claybon Lewis Atwater, 38, of Burlington, N.C., was convicted of a felony DUI last week in connection to an April 2019 crash involving a motorcycle in North Myrtle Beach, according to the Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

Last Thursday, Nov. 4, Atwater was convicted of felony driving under the influence causing death and felony DUI with great bodily injury by a jury and sentenced to 22 years in prison by the Honorable Circuit Court Judge Steven H. John. The case was prosecuted by senior assistant solicitor George DeBusk and assistant solicitor Rachel Harte.

“Felony DUI is one of those crimes that is 100 percent preventable and therein lies the truth tragedy,” said Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson. “A terrible decision leaves one person with severe injuries and a family without a loved one.”

According to the solicitor’s office the victims, Donna Schnell and her husband David Schnell, were traveling on their three-wheeled motorcycle on Highway 17 in North Myrtle Beach at around 4:30 p.m. on April 6, 2019, when evidence showed Atwater failed to yield to them when he pulled out of a convenience store parking lot. Several eyewitnesses who saw the crash testified that there was not sufficient space for Atwater to drive across the three lanes of traffic when he pulled out, according to court documents.

Donna Schnell was killed on impact and David Schnell, who was driving the motorcycle, suffered a compound fracture of his leg, multiple broken ribs, a broken jaw and collarbone, as well as a dislocated shoulder. He remains debilitated to this day, according to court documents. 

Senior assistant solicitor DeBusk said, “I want to thank the NMB Police Department for their excellent and timely work on this case. Although multiple agencies provided excellent assistance in the investigation, it was NMBPD that led on the case and their officers did an outstanding job.”

The solicitor’s office said that the NMBPD investigated the scene, also being assisted by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the S.C. Highway Patrol. Christopher Shick, Bryan Floyd and Jake Hoard of the NMBPD were the primary investigators on the case.

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