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.
A state Supreme Court judge Friday, Oct. 19 officially prohibited the Hudson River Rafting Company and its owner, Patrick Cunningham of North Creek, from operating a rafting business until charges from the state attorney general have been addressed.
Justice Richard Giardino signed the temporary restraining order — which was drawn up on Oct. 11 — in Supreme Court at the Fulton County Courthouse in Johnstown (Hamilton County does not have a Supreme Court room). The next court date was set for Nov. 8 as the attorney general seeks a permanent injunction against the company.
“This company has operated illegally, claimed to provide licensed rafting guides and said that every precaution would be taken to ensure the safety of rafters,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a prepared statement. “There was a pattern of practices indicating it did none of that, resulting in the recent tragic death of a white water rafter. As a result of today’s order, this company is no longer operating.”
On Oct. 10, Schneiderman filed a petition against the Hudson River Rafting Company and Cunningham, alleging 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.
When contacted by this newspaper, Cunningham said he had “zero” comments regarding the attorney general’s petition or the court order.
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.
As part of the petition, the attorney general is seeking $5,000 for each violation of the General Business Law (false advertising claims).
Consumers have been injured — and one killed — during the company’s rafting trips.
A Tamara F. Blake, 53, of Columbus, Ohio, died in a rafting accident Sept. 27 on the Hudson River, and her Hudson River Rafting Company guide was arrested after police found him to be intoxicated.
Cunningham had been indicted in Hamilton County Court on two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment for incidents in 2010. However, on March 29, that indictment was adjourned “in contemplation of dismissal” until Sept. 29 under three conditions.
On Sept. 5, Hamilton County District Attorney Marsha 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; and allegedly sending two customers down the river on Aug. 26 in a “duckie” without a licensed guide and without signing a rental agreement.
A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 20 to determine whether Cunningham violated the March 29 agreement.