A guide from the Hudson River Rafting Company takes clients down the Hudson River in North River May 5, 2012 during the White Water Derby.
The owner of the Hudson River Rafting Company faces additional charges of reckless endangerment.
Patrick Cunningham, of North Creek, was charged with two counts of reckless endangerment Tuesday, Dec. 11 in Hamilton County Court.
Hamilton County District Attorney Marsha Purdue said that brings the count to four charges of second-degree reckless endangerment, misdemeanor charges, against Cunningham for two separate incidents in August 2010 and May of this year.
The new charges stem from a May 27 incident where two riders, Ross Goldstein and Tammy Rowe of New York City, said they were part of a group rafting down the Hudson River when Cunningham exited the raft and sent them on the last 4 miles of the river unsupervised.
“Only two of the riders submitted a complaint, but they said there were more riders with them,” Purdue said. “They said one of the other riders was a child, and the other riders didn’t speak English very well.”
Purdue said the four charges won’t necessarily be handled together. The charges stemming from the August 2010 incident will go before the grand jury during the week of Jan. 14. Purdue said she hasn’t decided if she will put the recent charges before the grand jury.
Cunningham had been indicted in Hamilton County Court on two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment for two separate incidents in August 2010. It was reported to authorities that Cunningham sent a kayaker down the river without a licensed guide and abandoned a raft group, consisting of mostly children, leaving them to finish half of their trip, again, without a licensed guide.
However, on March 29, that indictment was adjourned “in contemplation of dismissal” until Sept. 29 under three conditions:
•No raft from the Hudson River Rafting Company and/or Patrick Cunningham be operated without a licensed rafting guide, except where there is a written rental agreement that the customer agrees to “captain” his/her own raft;
•No 16-foot raft from the Hudson River Rafting Company and/or Cunningham be operated with more than 12 occupants in the raft, plus the guide;
•And that Cunningham not violate any laws, rules or regulations of the state of New York.
That all changed on Sept. 5, however, when Purdue applied to restore the indictment against Cunningham and his company because Cunningham had allegedly violated the March 29 agreement by:
•allegedly leaving his raft — with two customers aboard — 4 miles before the end of a May 27 trip down the Hudson River, essentially leaving them without a guide for a portion of the trip.
•and allegedly sending two customers down the river on Aug. 26 in a “ducky” without a licensed guide and without signing a rental agreement.
The Hudson River Rafting Company has been under public scrutiny since the Sept. 27 rafting run where a customer died while under the supervision of an intoxicated guide.
Guide Rory Fay, 37, of North Creek, was operating a raft on the Indian River as a New York state licensed guide employed by the rafting company when Tamara F. Blake, 53, of Ohio, was thrown from the raft and drowned.
New York State Police that responded to a report of a missing rafter determined Fay was intoxicated at the time of the accident.
Fay pleaded guilty on Nov. 26 at the Hamilton County Court House to criminally negligent homicide, misdemeanor driving while intoxicated, and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third-degree.
On Oct. 19, state Supreme Court Judge Richard Giardino officially prohibited the Hudson River Rafting Company and Cunningham from operating a rafting business until charges from the state attorney general have been addressed. He signed the temporary restraining order, which was filed by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Oct. 10.
Schneiderman alleges that the company and its owner practiced “fraudulent, deceptive, and illegal conduct with their business providing guided river excursions on various New York rivers.” Schneiderman is trying to recover restitution and damages for consumers victimized by the respondents’ alleged practices and to recover penalties and costs.
The attorney general charges that the company has broken the law for:
•repeatedly not providing licensed guides on rafting excursions;
•persistent false advertising;
•repeatedly having employees drive customers on the company’s bus from North Creek to Indian Lake without valid drivers’ licenses for operating a bus;
•and statutory fraud by “misrepresenting the services they provide.”
The alleged violations have included providing guides with no licenses or, in some cases, providing no guides at all. Moreover, the attorney general takes issue with the company’s advertisements stating that they provide “safe” guided river rafting excursions.
When contacted by this newspaper, Cunningham said he had “zero” comments regarding the attorney general’s petition or the court order.
(Assistant Managing Editor Andy Flynn contributed to this story.)