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Attorney general seeks closure of Watertown whitewater rafting company

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The state attorney general’s office is continuing its case to permanently close the Hudson River Rafting Co. following a rafting death in the Adirondack Mountains in September.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Giardino gave attorneys for the attorney general’s office and the owner more time to file court papers in the case when it was adjourned Thursday. A new court date in Hamilton County has not been scheduled, but a court representative said a new hearing date may be set next month.

The attorney general’s office is seeking a permanent injunction to close the company’s operations at 424 Newell St., Watertown, and rafting trips in the Moose River, Hudson River and Sacandaga River. The state Department of Environmental Conservation took the action at the urging of the attorney general’s office after a Columbus, Ohio, woman’s death in a rafting accident Sept. 27 on the Indian River in Hamilton County.

Two weeks ago, DEC suspended owner Patrick J. Cunningham’s guide license and ordered the North Creek company to stop running whitewater rafting trips at all of his operations.

State police arrested the rafting guide, Rory F. Fay, 37, North Creek, on a charge of criminally negligent homicide, accusing him of being drunk during the rafting trip. His license has also been suspended.

Tamara Blake, 53, fell out of the raft Mr. Fay was guiding, state police said.

Mr. Fay and Ms. Blake were ejected when the raft hit rapids. Her friend, 53-year-old Richard Clar, also of Columbus, stayed with the raft and eventually steered it to shore. Mr. Fay made it to shore. Ms. Blake’s body was found five miles downstream in the Hudson River.

According to court documents, the attorney general’s office alleges the company:

n Failed to provide guides licensed by DEC for rafting on the Moose River, Black River and Hudson River.

n Failed to provide guides of rafting excursions when customers did not sign requests to captain their own crafts.

n Failed to give refunds when all promised services were not provided.

n Failed to provide safe rafting trips as advertised.

n Failed to provide guides with licenses to drive a bus to transport customers to and from the rafting site.

For the past 30 years, Hudson River Rafting has offered seven-mile rafting trips on the Black River on Class III and Class IV rapids from May until Columbus Day. According to the company’s website, the company promised safe rafting excursions and said “the staff and equipment are top-notch.”

Three other companies — Adirondack River Outfitters, B.O.B. Rafting and Whitewater Challengers — offer whitewater rafting on the Black River.

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