Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hudson River Guide Gets Jail In Rafting Fatality

A rafting guide whose client drowned in the Indian River last September has been sentenced to a year in jail and five years of probation.

Rory Fay, 37, of North Creek admitted he was drunk when he and the client, Tamara Blake, 53, of Columbus, Ohio, fell out of the raft on the morning of September 27. Blake’s boyfriend stayed in the raft and paddled to shore. Fay also managed to get to shore. Blake’s body was found five miles downstream in the Hudson River.

Fay, who worked for Hudson River Rafting Company, pleaded guilty in November to criminally negligent homicide, a felony, as well as two misdemeanors, driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

Hamilton County District Attorney Marsha Purdue said Fay will not be allowed to drink alcohol or guide rafts during his probation.

On the day of Fay’s arrest, another guide for Hudson River Rafting, Mark Lebrecque of Minerva, also was ticketed for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Lebrecque had been ticketed on a similar charge last May 27. In addition, he was ticketed June 2 for failing to display his guide’s license, according to Purdue. All three cases are pending in Indian Lake Town Court.

Pat Cunningham, the owner of Hudson River Rafting, was acquitted in Hamilton County Court last month on a misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment. He was accused of putting a father and daughter at risk by sending them on a whitewater trip without a guide. Soon after launching, the two overturned their raft. They were rescued by a guide from another rafting company.

Cunningham’s attorney, Joseph Brennan, argued that the clients were aware of the risks when they agreed to undertake the trip. After the verdict, he asked that similar charges against Cunningham in Indian Lake Town Court be dismissed. In that case, Cunningham is accused of exiting the raft on the Hudson before a trip ended, leaving two customers to travel the last four miles on on their own. (By then, the big rapids were behind them.)

Purdue said she is in talks with Cunningham’s lawyer and has not responded to the dismissal motion.

After last fall’s drowning, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Cunningham that seeks to shut down his rafting business.


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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

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