Finance minister Thomas Schaefer was found dead near Frankfurt on Saturday after reportedly killing himself over fears of the impact the coronavirus crisis will have on the German economy, according to reports. He was 54.
Schaefer, a colleague of Angela Merkel, was found dead in an apparent suicide on railway tracks at Hochheim, near Frankfurt on Saturday, officials confirmed.
The presence of a body on the tracks was first reported by witnesses to paramedics, who were unable to initially identify the body due to the extent of the injuries.
Authorities said Schaefer, the minister for the Hesse region and a married father-of-two, appeared to have killed himself, based on eyewitness reports as well as their own investigation.
On Sunday, State Governor Volker Bouffier suggested that Schaefer was in “despair” over the coronavirus crisis.
“We are in shock, we are in disbelief and above all, we are immensely sad,” Bouffier said in a statement.
Bouffier said Schaefer, who was a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, had been working “day and night” to help corporations and workers deal with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bouffier added that Mr. Schaefer was worried about “whether it would be possible to succeed in fulfilling the population’s huge expectations, particularly of financial help” amid the coronavirus crisis.
“I have to assume that these worries overwhelmed him,” Bouffier said.
“He apparently couldn’t find a way out. He was in despair and left us.“
Described as popular and respected, Schaefer had long been touted as a possible leader and successor to Bouffier.
The CDU’s outgoing leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Schaefer’s death was a “shock” to everyone in the CDU party. “This news leaves us sad and bewildered,” she said.
Merkel herself has been working from home after coming into contact with an infected doctor. The chancellor has tested negative, however.
Germany’s federal and state governments have drawn up huge aid packages to cushion the blow of the economic standstill. The country’s latest figures today show 57,298 cases and 455 deaths.
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