The owner of the Hudson River Rafting Company said today he couldn’t comment on a fatal accident on the Indian River last week other than to assert that he did not know if the employee guiding the raft was intoxicated.
“We had no idea he was drunk,” Pat Cunningham said, “and I don’t know all that happened.”
State Police say the guide, Rory Fay of North Creek, was indeed intoxicated when he undertook the whitewater trip last Thursday morning. They arrested him on a charge of criminally negligent homicide, a class E felony.
Tamara Blake, 53, of Columbus, Ohio, was ejected from the raft about twenty minutes into the trip. Her body was later found in the Hudson River five miles downstream.
“She was swept away so fast that they lost sight of her,” State Police Captain John Tibbitts said today.
An autopsy at Adirondack Medical Center has confirmed that Blake died from asphyxiation due to drowning, Tibbitts said. He wasn’t aware of other injuries that might have contributed to her death.
Blake and Fay were both thrown from the raft, but Fay managed to get to shore. Blake’s friend, Richard Clar, 53, also of Columbus, stayed in the raft and steered it to land. Tibbitts said Clar couldn’t find Blake or Fay, so he flagged down a car and reported the accident to State Police in Indian Lake.
Tibbitts said troopers could tell Fay was intoxicated by his appearance, his behavior, and his breath. After an arraignment, Fay was sent to the Hamilton County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail or $100,000 bond. As of this morning, he was still in jail, according to Marsha Purdue, the county’s district attorney.
Purdue said Fay waived a preliminary hearing, at least for now, but is scheduled to appear in court next Tuesday.
In another matter, Purdue is seeking to reinstate a pair of reckless-endangerment charges against Cunningham. He was indicted in 2010 for sending clients down the Hudson in inflatable kayaks and unguided rafts. This past March, the case was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal. Under a court agreement, the charges would be dropped if Cunningham kept his nose clean for six months—until September 29.
As reported earlier on Adirondack Almanack, Purdue contends that Cunningham violated the court agreement by again sending parties downriver in an unguided raft and an inflatable kayak.
“Our office developed concerns about the actions of the Hudson River Rafting Company on the river and whether those actions violated the conditions of the agreement,” Purdue said this morning.
In early September she filed a motion to reinstate the charges. The County Court is scheduled to hear from Purdue and Cunningham’s attorney next Wednesday.
Cunningham would not comment on the motion except to say the charges should be dismissed.
He added that the public has the right to go down rivers however they choose. “A person can go down the Hudson River Gorge, and they don’t have to hire a commercial outfitter,” he said.
Photo of Hudson Gorge by Carl Heilman II.