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Friday, September 10, 2010

Rafting guides accused of reckless endangerment

Blue Ledge in the Hudson Gorge. Photo copyright by Carl Heilman II.

Blue Ledge in the Hudson Gorge. Photo copyright by Carl Heilman II.

The owner of the Hudson River Rafting Company and one of his guides face charges of reckless endangerment for allegedly sending customers on whitewater trips without licensed guides.

Patrick Cunningham, the company’s owner, and Heath Bromley, the guide, pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges in Indian Lake Town Court, according to the Hamilton County district attorney’s office.

The charges of second-degree reckless endangerment stem from two separate incidents last month. Details of the charges are contained in court documents filed by Forest Ranger Steven Ovitt.

On August 10, Bromley “falsely” stated to Greg Kaasman, an employee of Longacre Expeditions, that the law does not require licensed guides to accompany customers on whitewater trips through the Hudson Gorge, according to Ovitt. The document says Bromley “persuaded Mr. Kaasman to permit such unguided trip by 11 children who were participating in a program sponsored by Longacre Expeditions.”

On August 12, Cunningham allegedly failed to provide a licensed guide to a customer named Robert Carson. Ovitt says Cunningham, “after being notified by Mr. Carson that he had no experience in whitewater on any type of raft, kayak or other boat, did importune Mr. Carson to attempt the trip in an inflatable kayak giving no instructions to Mr. Carson.”

In both cases, the court documents allege that the defendants engaged in reckless behavior “which created a substantial risk of serious physical injury to others.”

It could not be learned whether anyone was hurt in either incident. Both the district attorney’s office and the state Department of Environmental Conservation refused to discuss the case.

Reached by telephone, Cunningham also refused to discuss the case, though he said that customers sometimes request to captain their own rafts, “and I believe that’s legal in every river in the United States.”

Cunningham and Bromley also are charged with violating a DEC regulation that prohibits people from engaging in any activity on state land “which violates the Penal Law.”

Hudson River Rafting Company is one of the oldest rafting outfits operating on the Hudson. The seventeen-mile Hudson trip begins in the hamlet of Indian Lake and ends in the hamlet of North Creek. The first three and a half miles are on the Indian River, which has class 3 (intermediate) rapids. Rafters then enter the Hudson and eventually pass through the heavier rapids of the Hudson Gorge.

Depending on the season, Hudson River Rafting charges $80 to $105 per person. The company’s website promises “a fun, safe and exciting trip.”

Phil Brown

Contributor Phil Brown was editor of the Adirondack Explorer from 1999-2018. When he isn't at his desk, he's usually out hiking, paddling, skiing, or doing something else important.

13 Responses

  1. It’s about time! Cunningham has flouted all rules, regulations and ethics on the Indian and Hudson Rivers for as long as I can remember. I am not a river guide, but have been guiding as a ground-pounder for more than 20 years, and his operation is an embarrassment to me.

  2. Madd Dog says:

    Pat has been a nuisance for too long. We all want to see safe travel and I do not want to have to pick up his guests along the river. He has done a lot of damage to rafting in his act of negligence. it is a good thing that no one has been seriously injured but his customers have been scared in more ways than I would care to think about.

    Heath is a good guide and he should have known enough to distance himself from Pat a long time ago is is the same case for the rest of the guides that work for Pat. They are not using their heads.

  3. Lily says:

    Time to retire, Pat!

  4. Kevin "Critter" Dixon says:

    As a full time River Guide on the Hudson Gorge from the 1st week of april ’till mid-oct for many years I say this.

    The vast majority of the Outfitters and Guides I trust implicitly, so should our Guests.

    I’m sorry you couldn’t mention anything about us.

    critter

  5. Andrew Galley says:

    I went out there with my family last summer and Pat left us halfway down the river. We got stuck and had to walk miles back through the woods with no idea how far away we were or when we’d be back to our cars. It was unacceptable and I hope Pat gets what he deserves. I say take him up on a plane for some skydiving and then the guide bails out on him and leaves him to figure it out like he expected us to do.

  6. Nomad Guide says:

    Although there are major problems with Hudson River Rafting Company on the Hudson River, I must say that I have worked with the same company on the Black River, and that particular branch of the company has some truly amazing guides working for them.

    Not to support Pat or anything he does, I still think people should take note that the Black River branch of the company is still a good outfitter to use, and it would be a shame to see them without a base.

  7. river snake says:

    Critter is right, no one else is running this kind of trip.

  8. Phil says:

    River Snake & Critter, the story is about one company. I would hope readers would not make inferences about other companies based on this story.

  9. Phil,

    Thank you for getting the correct title on this story as most news agancy’s have NOT.

    The story is about Hudson River Rafting Co.

    Our company Adirondac Rafting Co. as well as most of the river outfitters takes great pride in running profeesional whitewater trips with a skilled and competent staff.

    Thank You, Robert B. Rafferty

  10. Andrea Reilly says:

    This has been too long in coming. I used to guide for HRRC, and quit because I felt that safety standards were not being followed. I did not want to be the guide accused of negligence, as Heath is now, so I left. Of course nothing changed when I quit and now someone else has to answer for Cunningham’s dangerous business practices.

    Some of the things I saw as a guide:

    My friend who was ‘training’ was required to guide boats unlicensed. He was paid less because he was an unlicensed guide, but the full responsibility of his actions would have fallen on him in the case of an injury.

    I saw boat racks on top of buses with dry wall screws.

    I saw customers in rafts with no guides whatsoever.

    I saw inexperienced customers in duckies with no kayak guides.

    I was asked to guide a solo boat as a second year guide with less than 500 miles. The level was about 6ft at the dam, and the weather was chilly and damp. It was mid week in May, and there was slim to no chance of seeing other rafts on the river that day (I refused to go).

    Good luck to Heath, he is a friend of mine and I hope he turns out alright. However, I hope Cunningham suffers some consequences for his endangerment of rafting guests. He has made the Hudson look bad for years by providing such negative experiences. In the words of Pat Cunningham, “Not every adventure is a fun one!”

  11. Raft company owner indicted @ says:

    […] As we reported in September, Cunningham and one of his guides, Heath Bromley, were initially charged last summer before the case went to the grand jury. Charges against Bromley have since been dropped. […]

  12. Guide says:

    The latest news on this lawsuit…?!

    They get away with it AGAIN and Heath Bromle walks out with 1.2 million dollars for being a whiny a$$ hole!

  13. len says:

    Cunningham is out to make money at any expence. He has a rafting business in Lake Luzerne which rafts on the Sacandaga. His practices there are just as shady. The buildings he runs his business out of are an eyesore to the pretty little town. He chooses not to work at fixing the buildings or his reputation. Time for him to get booted from all Adirondack rivers.

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