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Rafting company owner charged with endangering customers

2010-09-14T15:51:00Z Rafting company owner charged with endangering customers Glens Falls Post-Star
September 14, 2010 3:51 pm

INDIAN LAKE -- The owner of a North Creek whitewater rafting company and the company’s rafting director have been charged with misdemeanor reckless endangerment for allegedly endangering rafters and a kayaker earlier this summer, officials said.

Patrick Cunningham, owner of Hudson River Rafting Co., was charged with second-degree reckless endangerment, as was an employee of the company, Heath Bromley, according to Hamilton County District Attorney James Curry.

They are accused of sending rafters on a trip without a licensed guide and deceiving at least one customer about whether licensed guides were required, court records show.

The investigation came after three people were injured this year on Hudson River Rafting Co. rafting trips, Curry said, and at least one group that included children was stranded on the Hudson River and had to hike several miles out of the woods to find help.

That stranding occurred when the rafters did not time the water release correctly, and wound up stuck in low water conditions, officials said.

Cunningham defended his 32-year business on Tuesday and said he plans to plead not guilty to the charges.

He said no one was endangered, and his business uses licensed guides as required.

Cunningham and Bromley were charged in connection with August whitewater rafting outings on the Indian and Hudson rivers, court records show.

Bromley, a Johnsburg resident, is accused of sending a group of 11 children from a New Jersey adventure program on an “unguided” trip down the rivers Aug. 10 and telling a leader of the group that there was no requirement for a licensed guide to accompany them, according to a complaint filed by state Forest Ranger Steven Ovitt.

A call to the adventure program, Longacre Expeditions, was not returned Tuesday.

Cunningham was charged for an Aug. 12 incident in which he allegedly failed to provide a guide and sent a man down the river in an inflatable kayak despite the fact the man told him he did not have any experience rafting or kayaking, Ovitt wrote in court records.

Cunningham, though, said the man “insisted” on trying to get through difficult rapids on his own despite his lack of experience. He was unable to make it through mid-level “Class 3” rapids, Cunningham said.

Cunningham said he guided the group that got stuck in low water, and walked out of the woods about 2 miles on railroad tracks. He said he aborted a trip out of safety concerns as he has been trained to do by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Curry said the state the DEC investigation is continuing.

“The rangers who have worked on this rightfully have a cause for concern,” he said.

He said there is no indication any of the other rafting companies that operate on the rivers have had such issues.

“To my knowledge, the rafters out there are very careful,” Curry said.

The DEC would not discuss the case and referred comment to the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office.

Cunningham and Bromley are free pending prosecution in Indian Lake Town Court.

Copyright 2015 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(14) Comments

  1. medvidek72
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    medvidek72 - September 19, 2010 10:54 am
    There is no better fake-o defense than "didn't [enforcement] have anything better to do?". Who are you people who believe that if someone does something wrong or illegal, that it should just be "let go"? Yes, we all sin, no one is perfect, but if we do something we know is wrong - why do people stick up for our WRONG behavior? Why can't people just say "So-and-so made a bad judgment, people in their care/custody felt there was a breach of trust/contract, it's sad for everyone involved... I hope it all works out for the best"? Why does it ALWAYS have to be someone saying "Well, I guess the [police/fire/ems/dec/boss/lawyer/judge/accuser] had nothing better to do"? Get real. If YOUR CHILDREN were potentially wronged and you went to the DEC for resolution... YOU would probably be the first person to call the DEC useless or lazy if they DIDN'T go after these guys. So, now it's just that you aren't on that end of the stick, so now the DEC is the bad guy. Can't EVER win with y'all...
  2. Critter
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    Critter - September 19, 2010 9:22 am
    As a full time DEC licensed River Guide on the Indian River & Hudson River Gorge from the 1st week of april ’till mid-oct for many years for another outfitter. I say this.
    The vast majority of the Outfitters and Guides I trust implicitly, so should our Guests.
    Heath is and has been a licensed guide for years. He knows the river. I trust him on the river with myself and my guests
    as I know he trusts me. Every pro on the river looks out for each other.
    Anyone that wants to go down the 17 mile Indian/Hudson trip on a raft or kayak or variation is legal. Sign in at the put in. However, You better have your act together. We are sick of picking you up scattered all over the river. But we do and we will 'caus that's the way it is.
    Charging for a boat without a guide, is another story".
    Moral is!!! Ask to see your guides license. We are required to carry it with us BY LAW.
    See you on the the river. Critter
  3. upstatehunter
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    upstatehunter - September 18, 2010 10:51 pm
    don't blame the victims. they got screwed."
    I didn't blame them, another post was putting the blame off the rafting company by stating they wanted to go unguided.
    What I meant was if it was to be an unguided trip, that would be the only way the rafting company would have an out. But your right, rentals without guides are illegal here on this river. Whether the person was a guide in Colorado or somewhere does not make them compliant to NYS laws governing rafting the river.

  4. Downtown
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    Downtown - September 18, 2010 9:01 am
    upstatehunter said: "If they rented a raft and equipment and headed up to run the river unguided than that is a totally different situation."

    From what I can tell renting rafts and equipment without providing a licensed guide on NY rivers containing class III+/IV whitewater is also not legally allowed, not to mention the liability exposure.

    don't blame the victims. they got screwed.
  5. upstatehunter
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    upstatehunter - September 18, 2010 8:27 am
    Seems there is always a but to follow.
    But they as customers of the rafting business must have a licensed guide on their raft. Yes you may go unguided, but(there it is again) then it would be a rental agreement between the customer and the rafting business, with different paperwork. If they signed up for a guided trip, to include transportation, rafts, equipment, and guides then thats what should have been supplied. If they rented a raft and equipment and headed up to run the river unguided than that is a totally different situation. I'm sure that if Mr. Bromley is licensed and has 20 years on the river, and is a manager for Cunninghams then he must know the laws. Lastly if he did nothing wrong, he should be found not guilty and the ticket throw out.
    To those that state the "bubble" can be hard to predict, very wrong. The dam is let out at the same time daily. I saw them leaving the day in question at 11am. Remember thinking they were late. Then saw the Rangers and EMS there later.
  6. Addy Rondack
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    Addy Rondack - September 17, 2010 8:48 pm
    Upstate Hunter, Bromley himself is a licensed guide...the issue is that the raft in question was unguided. I have actually learned that these people elected to guide their own raft, because one of them was a raft guide in Colorado or somewhere. It’s not illegal for someone to self guide a raft. The bottom line is that I know Mr. Bromley is a hard worker and tries very hard to maintain a professional business. I also know that he butts heads with Mr. Cunningham quite a bit. Cunningham is a 70+ year old man who is very stubborn and does things his own way, right or not. However, Bromley has loyalty to the company and to his employees; his job is his livelihood, and after the unemployment runs out, and you can’t get another decent job, someone in his shoes would surely think twice before quitting his job and letting his family starve. Bromley did not head out that day having any idea he would be arrested and charged, because he wasn’t doing anything other than guiding his own boat
  7. upstatehunter
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    upstatehunter - September 17, 2010 7:56 am
    Though I commend you for defending a friend Addy, I have to dissagree with your statements.
    First, if an employer asked you to do something illegal and you refused to, then they fire you. You have recourse to either get your job back or obtain restitution. A simple call to the labor board. Second, why doesn't he have a guides license? If he was a manager for Pat, he should have one. I'm sure Pat would have paid for him to get his. Not defending Pat here, he should maintain a staff of guides. As far as the comment of DEC not having anything better to do, they were called to help locate the customers involved. They do an average of four checks a year on the Indian. Mr.Bromley as a manager should know the law. If your job requires special licensing, you are responsible for obtaining it. Knowing Pat, he doesn't force anyone to do anything, he might have asked...
    Bottom line is this has happened before, and due to the nature of the business will again.
    Also the 20yr, breaking in, HUH??
  8. bluemountain
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    bluemountain - September 16, 2010 8:25 pm
    Not surprised in the least. Its about time they got caught. The reviews on their website are written by them. Try posting honest ones. Our group had the worst time with this company and same annoying guide. He was NOT professional or fun, everything was outdated and filthy. When we pointed him out boozing at the bar we learned from locals he has a reputation that is clearly tarnished. Ask around before you waste your money.
  9. Addy Rondack
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    Addy Rondack - September 16, 2010 11:23 am
    It is sad to see the law and the media going after Mr. Bromley, who has a young family and is trying to break into the rafting industry himself. Will this situation tarnish his name? His only fault has been loyalty to Mr. Cunningham, the company, and his customers.Charges against him are bogus, when the events he is being charged for happened under the authority of Mr. Cunningham. It may be the case that Cunnigham forced Bromley to carry out questionable actions. Unfortunately, many of us have had to do things we knew were wrong in our jobs, because if we didn't we might lose our jobs & income. With a wife and infant to support, Bromley had no choice but comply w Cunnighams orders whether he liked it or not. In case you haven't been there, there are not many jobs available in north creek, ny! Shame on the DEC and media for putting Bromley in the spotlight, this is certainly coercion and a scare tactic to pressure him cause theyre plotting against Cunnigham.DEC must not have enough to do
  10. Addy Rondack
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    Addy Rondack - September 16, 2010 10:49 am
    I cant believe the news is sensationalizing this story. Im familiar w the people who work for this company, including Bromley. First, Bromley, who is manager under Cunningham, takes his orders from Mr. Cunningham, he is only being charged because the DEC wants him to testify against his boss. He was only doing his job and following orders, he had NO say.He has been rafting for 20 years and is an extremely professional river guide. ANYONE who has ever had him for a guide has reported having an amazing experience (just read reviews for Hudson River Rafting Co online and you will see Heath's name mentioned with glowing praise). Having rafted with him personally several times,hes very concerned with keeping his customers safe, and people feel very safe when rafting with him because hes so confident and professional. Furthermore, Rafting is considered an extreme sport, and anything can happen on the river, it is not an amusement park ride and complete safety cannot be guaranteed
  11. danrice518
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    danrice518 - September 16, 2010 7:00 am
    "the bubble" is not hard to predict for a licensed guide. in the gorge, if you fall off the bubble it's not a simple matter of hiking out by following the tracks: it's a long bushwack back from the middle of nowhere. this company's shenanigans have long been cause for concern.
  12. randyinadk
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    randyinadk - September 15, 2010 8:14 pm
    One thing is for sure - a thorough investigation is needed before anyone else gets compromised. Could be the low water part is perfectly normal - I've walked home on the tracks several times when the water was too low for my inner tube. The 'bubble' can be hard to predict. I live next to the river, and it comes thru here at different times depending on the initial water level before the dam release above.
  13. sgfmomof3
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    sgfmomof3 - September 14, 2010 8:35 pm
    Too bad- we went rafting with this company in August, with a licensed guide, and had a GREAT time.
  14. Easyrider60
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    Easyrider60 - September 14, 2010 4:26 pm
    Looks like these guys are up the creek without a paddle....

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