An allegedly drunken guide has been charged with criminally negligent homicide after a woman in his raft was thrown out and died in whitewater conditions on the Indian River.
State-licensed guide Rory F. Fay, 37, of North Creek, who was piloting the raft, was intoxicated while he transported Tamara F. Blake, 53, and Richard J. Clar, 53, both of Columbus, Ohio, according to state police.
The accident happened shortly before 10:30 a.m. Thursday during a river trip arranged by the Hudson River Rafting Company, headquartered in North Creek.
The portion of the Indian River where the three occupants were thrown from the raft is known for strong, complicated rapids leading to the confluence with the Hudson River. Later Thursday, a search team aided by a state police helicopter found Blake’s body in the Hudson five miles below where she went into the water.
The Hudson River Rafting Co., one of the oldest rafting operations on the upper Hudson, starts its 17-mile river trip in the hamlet of Indian Lake, in Hamilton County. The first four miles of the trip are in the Indian River and then the raft enters the Hudson River and goes through a dramatic gorge before arriving in North River, Warren County.
State Police investigator Jeremy Viele said Blake was wearing a life jacket. “We are still investigating” what caused the woman’s death, he said.
Hamilton County District Attorney Marsha Purdue said the ongoing investigation includes how the alleged use of alcohol by the river guide played into the incident.
Fay was arraigned Thursday night in the Hamilton County town of Indian Lake and taken to Hamilton County Jail in Lake Pleasant for lack of $50,000 cash bail. Purdue said that Fay was assigned attorney Allan Day to represent him.
Police said that Fay and Blake were both ejected from the raft when it encountered white water conditions. Clar was able to stay in the raft and steer it to the shore. Fay swam to shore.
Clar and Fay couldn’t find Blake. They then walked to Chain Lakes Road in the town of Indian Lake where they were able to seek assistance. State police from Indian Lake and Ray Brook responded after Blake was reported missing around noon. State Environmental Conservation personnel and members of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department along with local fire department and rescue squad personnel also assisted, according to a statement from state police Troop B.
Later Thursday, Blake’s body was found approximately five miles downstream in the Hudson River.
Essex County Coroner Walter Marvin Jr. authorized the transport of Blake’s body to the Adirondack Medical Center morgue in Saranac Lake where a autopsy was conducted Friday, state police said in a statement. Results of the autopsy were not available Friday.
Police said Fay was employed by the Hudson River Rafting Co., which is owned by Pat Cunningham and runs rafting excursions on the Hudson River, Sacandaga River, Black River and Moose River.
Two years ago, the Hudson River Rafting Co. and one of its guides were in the news when Cunningham and a guide were charged with reckless endangerment for allegedly sending customers on white water trips without having licensed guides aboard. Cunningham pleaded not guilty. The case against the men was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal this spring, according to Purdue.
Cunningham could not be reached for comment Friday.