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Court order halts Hudson River Rafting during drowning investigation

2012-10-11T16:52:00Z 2012-10-15T09:06:49Z Court order halts Hudson River Rafting during drowning investigationDON LEHMAN - dlehman@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
October 11, 2012 4:52 pm  • 

A state Supreme Court justice on Thursday ordered that Hudson River Rafting Co. halt whitewater rafting operations as the state Attorney General’s Office investigates its operations.

Justice Richard Giardino directed that the North Creek outfitter stop rafting while a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General’s Office proceeds through court. The lawsuit alleges the company committed “statutory fraud,” violated numerous state laws and regulations and falsely advertised its services.

The company repeatedly sent rafts down the Hudson and Indian rivers without licensed guides and had unlicensed drivers operating buses that took passengers to the river, according to the lawsuit.

“Consumers have been injured by respondents’ repeated illegal and unsafe provision of guided rafting excursions on the subject rivers, and in a recent incident, a consumer was killed,” Assistant Attorney General G. Nicholas Garin wrote.

The state Attorney General’s Office sought a temporary injunction that would bar the company from offering whitewater rafting. Giardino did not sign the order but instead orally ordered the company to halt rafting and scheduled a hearing on the issue for an unspecified day next week, according to Giardino’s clerk.

The rafting season ended last weekend for most if not all of the companies that use the Indian and Hudson rivers.

The Attorney General’s Office had acknowledged last week it was investigating the company, after a raft passenger drowned last month and following recent prosecutions of Hudson River Rafting Co. owner Patrick Cunningham.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office acknowledged late Thursday the office had gone to court to seek a temporary restraining order against Hudson River Rafting Co., but said she could not provide further details.

Cunningham did not return a phone call for comment, and his lawyer, Jason Britt, said Thursday he had no comment on the matter.

The court action against the company comes two weeks after a patron drowned during a whitewater rafting trip on the Indian and Hudson rivers, and a guide was charged with criminally negligent homicide for allegedly guiding the boat while intoxicated.

The woman who drowned, Tamara F. Blake, 53, of Ohio, was thrown from the raft, as was guide Rory K. Fay, 37, of North Creek. The other passenger, Blake’s boyfriend, Richard J. Clar, 53, also of Ohio, was not thrown from the raft.

Cunningham was in Hamilton County Court on Wednesday as the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office sought to reopen misdemeanor reckless endangerment charges against him.

The charges, which accuse him of endangering passengers during two rafting trips in 2010, were adjourned in contemplation of dismissal if Cunningham followed certain conditions in his operation.

District Attorney Marsha Purdue has accused Cunningham of violating the deal by sending a raft on a portion of a trip without a guide in May. The guide exited the raft during a trip and had passengers travel the final several miles unguided, she said.

Purdue said Judge S. Peter Feldstein scheduled a hearing for Nov. 20 to determine whether Cunningham violated the agreement. If it is found that he did, he could face trial on the misdemeanor charges and a potential jail sentence of up to a year on each charge.

The criminally negligent homicide charge remains pending against Fay, who was being held in Hamilton County Jail. Purdue said the investigation of that aspect of the case is continuing.

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