Matthew Zika ’11, a 21-year-old student in the College of Engineering, is believed to have died Friday afternoon after dropping from the suspension bridge over Fall Creek Gorge, according to University and law enforcement officials. The apparent suicide is still being investigated by the Ithaca Police Department in collaboration with the Cornell University Police Department.
As of late Sunday night, rescue workers had still not recovered Zika’s body, though recovery efforts were ongoing, according to CUPD Chief Kathy Zoner. It remained unclear whether rescue workers had yet to locate the body or had found it but were having difficulty retrieving it. IPD could not be reached for comment Sunday night.
Police said they first responded to Fall Creek Gorge at around 3:45 p.m. Friday afternoon after a motorist traveling along the 800 block of Stewart Avenue observed a person drop from the suspension bridge. The IPD temporarily closed the suspension bridge and the Stewart Avenue Bridge. Other witnesses said they found an unattended jacket and backpack containing a wallet, cell phone and other personal possessions on the suspension bridge.
“Responding officers from Ithaca Police, Ithaca Fire Department and Cornell Police were able to track the body as it flowed with the water downstream towards Stewart Park,” the IPD said in a statement Saturday. “Attempts were made to recover the body … [but they] were unsuccessful as it frequently disappeared from view.”
A search helicopter was also brought in to assist the recovery efforts, police said.
Friday’s incident, which followed a string of two other gorge-related deaths on campus, immediately prompted a series of mass e-mails from the University and an aggressive mental health campaign throughout the weekend.