State police say a Germantown man, aged 31, committed suicide on Thursday afternoon, February 24, by jumping off the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. A trooper at the Catskill barracks confirmed the fatal leap to the Daily Freeman
, who posted a breaking news story on what happened at about 1:00 p.m., when the focus was on the closing of bridge traffic between Columbia and Greene counties. Later, the Register-Star's Andrew Amelinckx
ran a story that included quotes from witnesses who said they saw a man carrying a metal briefcase walk from the Columbia County side of the 76-year old span and leap over the south side of the its edge late Thursday morning. The 31-year-old man, whose name hasn’t been released yet, had a history of mental illness, according to the New York State Police, and would have walked past a suicide hotline phone as he stepped onto the bridge. “When it seems like there is no hope, there is help,” it reads. The Coast Guard sent a cutter, but was unable to get to the site due to the shallowness of the water. The man’s body was taken from the scene by Yadack-Fox Funeral Home of Germantown. Amelinckx reports that several people said they had seen the man walking on state Route 9G in the past several weeks, wearing a suit without an overcoat and carrying his briefcase as he walked on the side of the road. It was because of that briefcase, left on the walkway, that police say they closed the bridge in both directions from about 11:45 a.m., when the incident occurred, until about 1:30 p.m., during which time they brought in a bomb squad to check the briefcase's contents, "erring on the side of caution" only to find it contained the Germantown man's papers. The bridge extends 5,040 feet across the river, with a ship clearance of 145 feet.