Thomas Schaefer, the finance minister of Germany’s Hesse state, committed suicide apparently after becoming “deeply worried” over how to cope with the economic fallout from the coronavirus.

State premier Volker Bouffier stated via a recorded statement on Sunday (March 29).

Mr. Schaefer, 54, was found dead near a railway track on Saturday. The Wiesbaden prosecution’s office said they believe he died by suicide.

“We are in shock, we are in disbelief and, above all, we are immensely sad,” Mr. Bouffier said.

Hesse is home to Germany’s financial capital Frankfurt, where major lenders like Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank have their headquarters. The European Central Bank is also located in Frankfurt.

A visibly shaken Mr. Bouffier recalled that Mr. Schaefer, who was Hesse’s finance chief for 10 years, had been working “day and night” to help companies and workers deal with the economic impact of the pandemic.

“Today, we have to assume that he was deeply worried,” said Mr. Bouffier, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“It’s precisely during this difficult time that we would have needed someone like him,” he added.

Popular and well-respected, Mr. Schaefer had long been touted as a possible successor to Mr. Bouffier.

FRANKFURT AFP/NAN