Tuesday May 21, 2013

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A whitewater rafting company forced to halt tours after a customer drowned last year can resume guided trips in the Adirondacks with some restrictions, a judge ruled.

Judge Richard Giardino ordered Hudson River Rafting Co. of North Creek to pay $12,000 in civil penalties for 10 documented instances where employees were ticketed for guiding rafts or driving shuttle buses without appropriate licenses.

In a ruling handed down last week, Giardino also ordered the company to post a $50,000 performance bond and barred it from renting rafts to kayaks to customers who captain their own boats on rivers requiring licensed guides.

The judge cited the company’s 30-year history and owner Patrick Cunningham’s longtime safety record while ordering Hudson River Rafting to post the bond to ensure "proper business behavior on their part in the future."

Giardino dismissed a state claim that the company and Cunningham engaged in false advertising.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued to shut the company last year after the drowning. Its staff had been issued 13 tickets by rangers in the previous five years for unlicensed guiding.

Giardino ordered Hudson River Rafting last October to temporarily halt guided trips. That continued into the start of this year’s whitewater season.

Company attorney Jason Britt said Cunningham plans to reopen the business.


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He declined to comment on whether they will appeal.

Schneiderman’s office had proposed penalties and restrictions as a possible alternative to shutdown. "We expect the injunction issued will have a positive effect on consumers and the business practices of the Hudson River Rafting Co.," spokesman Damien LaVera said.

In January, a Hamilton County jury acquitted Cunningham of misdemeanor reckless endangerment for sending a father and daughter down the Indian River without a guide. The inexperienced whitewater kayakers fell out of the two-person boat. Cunningham argued that the kayakers knew the risks and chose to go.

In November, Hudson River guide Rory Fay pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and two other charges following the Sept. 27 drowning of client Tamara Blake, 53, of Columbus, Ohio. State Police said both fell out of their raft on the Indian River, which flows into the upper Hudson, and that Fay was drunk.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation lists 10 segments of waterways where state-licensed guides need whitewater certification to take clients, including parts of the Indian, Hudson, Raquette, Moose, Schroon, Boreas, Black and Salmon rivers and Cattaraugus Creek.