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.