CHARLES TOWN - A lawsuit filed by 20 individuals names River Riders, Inc., as being responsible for a whitewater rafting accident that took place Sept. 30, 2004, and seeks more than $4 million.

Thirteen of the plaintiffs say they were on the raft, while the other seven are suing for loss of consortium with their respective spouses. The suit was filed Sept. 29 in Jefferson Circuit Court.

A separate lawsuit filed Sept. 28 by Kathy Freeman is a wrongful death complaint over the death of her husband Roger.

The 13 survivors who claim to have been on the raft say that "due to high, swift and rough waters, the raft in which (he or she) was a passenger overturned, throwing (her or him) into the Shenandoah River and causing… serious injuries."

The complaint adds that River Riders' trip was scheduled to travel down the Shenandoah River from Millville to Brunswick, Md., and consisted of 27 paying customers and five employees.

"At the beginning of the whitewater raft trip, and continuing through the trip, the water level of the Shenandoah River was dangerously high due to the run off of waters from Hurricane Jeannie," the complaint says.

"The defendant was aware of dangerous conditions on the Shenandoah River, but in violation of the standard of care expected of members of the whitewater guide profession it failed and refused to call off the trip. Instead, it merely shortened its planning time to complete the trip from four hours to two hours."

Much of the rest of the complaint describes the alleged dumping of the passengers into the river, including the passengers struggling with the strong current of the river.

They claim River Riders was negligent in failing to call off the trip, postpone the trip, recognize the unsafe condition, operate the raft and provide a safe and seaworthy vessel.

The plaintiffs are: Marsha and Samuel Christopher, Lara Crozier, M. Cristina and Alex Echegoyen, Betty and George Green, Katherine Hax, Richi Rastogi, Donald Spears, Karen Trehan, Darryl and Anita Wiley, Carrie and Bradford Muller, Cristina and Timothy Friddle, April Goss and Brian and Victoria Payne.

The combined amount of money the plaintiffs seek in the complaint is $4.25 million.

Each individual involved in the wreck is asking for $300,000, while each loss of consortium claim is for $50,000.

Mark Jenkinson of Burke, Schultz, Harman and Jenkinson in Martinsburg is representing the plaintiffs.

Samuel Byrer of Nichols and Skinner in Charles Town is representing Freeman, who says her husband died in the accident.

Her complaint says Roger Freeman, of Forestville, Md., was dumped into the water when his boat flipped over.

"An employee of River Riders recovered Roger Freeman's body from the Shenandoah River, at which point three employees of River Riders attempted CPR to revive Roger Freeman," the complaint says.

"As a direct and proximate result of the defendant's wrongful acts… Roger Freeman was killed. The cause of Roger Freeman's death was ruled a drowning."

Kathy Freeman charges River Riders with negligence, gross negligence, reckless and wanton conduct. She seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Jefferson Circuit Court case number 06-C-328

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