Hudson River Rafting Company guide gets one year in jail

A guide from the Hudson River Rafting Company takes clients down the Hudson River in North River May 5, 2012 during the White Water Derby.

A guide from the Hudson River Rafting Company takes clients down the Hudson River in North River May 5, 2012 during the White Water Derby. Photo by Andy Flynn.

— A Hamilton County judge Feb. 1 sentenced a North Creek whitewater rafting guide to one year in jail for negligible homicide after a woman died during a rafting trip in September.

Rory Fay, 37, who was a New York registered rafting guide with the Hudson River Rafting Company, was sentenced by Hamilton County Judge S. Peter Feldstein after he pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated, aggravated driving while intoxicated, and criminal negligence.

Fay was sentenced for criminally negligent homicide, a felony, carrying a sentence of six months in jail and 5 years probation; driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor carrying a sentence of one year in prison; and aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle, a misdemeanor carrying a sentence of 180 days in jail. District Attorney Marsha Purdue said Fay will serve his time in jail concurrently, not consecutively, meaning the maximum sentence at the Hamilton County Jail is one year. Time served will also count toward his sentence. Fay has remained in police custody since Sept. 27, and with good behavior, he could be released as early as June, according to Purdue.

The charges stem from the drowning of 53-year-old Tamara Blake, of Columbus, Ohio. Blake and another passenger were riding with Fay on the Indian River at about 10:20 a.m. on Sept. 27 when Fay and Blake fell overboard. Fay was able to swim to the shore, though Blake’s body was discovered downriver. An autopsy showed Blake’s death was caused by drowning.

Police investigation revealed Fay was intoxicated at the time of the accident. During the trial, Fay said he had been drinking the night before the accident, according to Purdue.

Before sentencing, Fay expressed remorse for what happened to Blake and apologized to her daughter, son, and brother who had attended the sentencing.

Since Blake’s death, Hamilton County and the state of New York have increased their scrutiny of the Hudson River Rafting Company, its owner, Patrick Cunningham, and their practices. In October, a state supreme court temporarily shut down the rafting company after the state's attorney general filed a petition against the company and the owner, alleging they practiced “fraudulent, deceptive, and illegal conduct with their business providing guided river excursions on various New York rivers.”

Two misdemeanor reckless endangerment charges against Cunningham from a 2010 incident were reinstated as a result of the accident. Cunningham was recently acquitted on the charges, although Cunningham still faces two charges of reckless endangerment. He is due back in court later this month.

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