Cunningham has run afoul of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s regulations on several occasions. In June 2015, DEC staff refused Cunningham’s request to renew his license.
Cunningham appealed that decision, but it was upheld by Administrative Law Judge Michael S. Caruso the following November after a hearing. Caruso said the department had ample reasons for denying Cunningham a guide’s license.
“The hearing record demonstrates that, in addition to violating the law, Mr. Cunningham has conducted himself and his business in a manner unsafe to his customers,” Caruso wrote in a hearing report. “He and HRRC have sent out rafts without a guide in the raft, when the customers expected a guided raft trip. Mr. Cunningham has admitted that on occasion he will exit a raft that he is guiding because he is bored. In doing so, he leaves his customers on the Hudson River to finish the remainder of the trip without a guide, without someone trained in first aid and CPR, and without knowledge of where the take-out is located. He claims customers agree to this, but the evidence demonstrates otherwise.”
In an order dated this past August 24, Seggos accepts Caruso’s decision. “The hearing record documents numerous other incidents where Mr. Cunningham’s actions and business practices have placed his customers and others at risk,” Seggos said. “These include but are not limited to (a) leaving a young camp counselor in the river, (b) allowing rafts that were overcrowded on the river, (c) personally abandoning a raft thereby leaving the customers on the raft to complete the trip absent any guide, (d) placing inexperienced customers on unguided rafts or in unguided inflatable kayaks, (e) using unlicensed guides, and (f) allowing his buses that transport customers to be driven by individuals lacking the proper license.”
Hudson River Rafting Company came under increased scrutiny from state officials after one its customers drowned after falling out of a raft on the Indian River in 2012. The raft’s guide, Rory Fay, was intoxicated, though Cunningham told Adirondack Almanack at the time that he didn’t know that. Fay pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide, a felony, and two misdemeanors. He was sentenced to a year in jail and five years of probation.
Cunningham was one of the first to offer commercial rafting trips through the Hudson Gorge. The trips start on the Indian River in the hamlet of Indian Lake and end on the Hudson near North River.
Click here to find other stories on the Almanack about Cunningham’s run-ins with the state.
Photo by Phil Brown: Pat Cunningham, right, with his lawyer, Joseph Brennan, in 2013.