Pat Cunningham, the owner of Hudson River Rafting Company, had been indicted on two misdemeanor reckless-endangerment charges stemming from separate incidents in August 2010. One of the charges was dismissed because the witnesses did not want to testify, according to Marsha Purdue, the county’s district attorney.
In the other incident, Cunningham sent Robert Carson and his twenty-year-old daughter, Savannah, on a whitewater trip in an inflatable kayak. Since it was a two-person vessel, there was no room for a guide. The two lacked whitewater experience and capsized shortly after launching on the Indian River. They were rescued by guides employed by another outfitter.
Carson testified that he had asked if the kayak would be safe, and Cunningham replied: “You’ll be fine, and I think you’ll have a great time.” When the vessel overturned in rapids, Carson and his daughter were submerged. “My only concern was my daughter’s life,” he said, tearing up on the stand.
Cunningham’s attorney, Joseph Brennan of Glens Falls, contended that Carson was aware of the risks when he embarked on the trip. “Robert Carson considers himself a high-energy individual. He was looking for excitement; he was looking for thrills,” Brennan told the jury in his opening statement.
Purdue said she was disappointed with the verdict but does not regret bringing the case to trial. “If I had to do it over again, I would do it because I’m not going to walk away from difficult issues,” she said.
Cunningham still faces two counts of reckless endangerment in Indian Lake Town Court, both arising from incidents last year. He also is fighting a lawsuit filed by the state attorney general’s office that seeks to shut down his rafting business.
The state filed the suit last fall after a woman fell out of a raft in the Indian River and drowned. The guide, Rory Fay, was employed by Hudson River Rafting. He also fell out of the raft but managed to get to shore. Fay later admitted he was drunk and pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide. He is awaiting sentencing.
The Hamilton County Express has more details on Cunningham’s trial.
Photo by Phil Brown: Pat Cunningham (right) and his attorney, Joseph Brennan, enter the Hamilton County Courthouse.