Above: An intersection in the Delaware County hamlet of East Branch where a man drove his Jeep off an exit ramp and into the Delaware River on Tuesday, May 5. Image via Google Earth.
A 37-year-old New Jersey man was found dead inside a heavily-damaged Jeep Grand Cherokee in the Delaware River on Tuesday, May 5, police say.
Stephen J. Maikisch III of Somerset, New Jersey apparently drove off an exit ramp, through a guardrail and into the river "at a high rate of speed" sometime on Monday or Tuesday, according to the New York State Police.
The crash occurred at an exit ramp leading from exit 90 off westbound Route 17 onto Harvard Road in the hamlet of East Branch in Hancock.
Maikisch was last seen over 100 miles away in New Jersey by a relative close to a full day before his body was found in the river in Hancock around 5:38 a.m. Tuesday morning, said Nathan Riegel, a State Police spokesman. What happened in between appears to be a mystery.
Maikisch apparently exited Route 17 westbound at Exit 90 at "a high rate of speed," and then drove through a T-intersection at the end of the exit ramp, at Harvard Road. He crossed Harvard Road and drove through a guard rail, which appears to have launched the Jeep into the air. The Jeep flew about 200 feet over riverbank, through several trees, and over 50 feet of water before landing in the river, Riegal said. The vehicle was heavily damaged.
"He hit a guard rail, which sent him airborne, and went through some trees. He ultimately landed 200 feet from the roadway," Riegel said. "He had to be going fast."
Riegal said that the timing of the crash is unclear. State Police accident reconstruction experts found few marks on the roadway of the exit ramp, which suggests that Maikisch did not brake or attempt to stop his vehicle as it careened toward the guardrail and the riverbank.
No alcohol or illicit drugs were found in Maikisch's system, Riegel said, and his relatives did not know why he was in Delaware County, or where he was going.
A 911 call from someone who noticed the Jeep in the river early on Tuesday morning first alerted police and first responders to the crash, Riegel said. Multiple water rescue teams were at the scene in East Branch throughout the day yesterday, according to a report from the Daily Star.