On Monday night, an unsanctioned hiking group of SUNY New Paltz students went hiking in Hasbrouck Park, which resulted in the tragic death of one undergraduate student.
Katherine Vollmer, 20, transferred from Monroe Community College in Rochester this fall and was a visual arts major at SUNY New Paltz. About 10 students were hiking on the east side of Hasbrouck Park that faces the Hudson River, according to Detective Lt. Thierry Croizer of the Kingston Police Department, who also stated that they were hiking in and around numerous man-made caves from where old cement was mined.
Their hike began around 6:30 p.m., according to a Facebook post from the Kingston Police Department on Tuesday morning. Hasbrouck Park itself is not dangerous, but the area with woods and cliffs can be, “especially during this time of year,” according to Croizer, who also said that it was dark and there was rain and wet leaves at the time of the hike, which he compared to “stepping on ice.” Upon walking back to their vehicles, the students had become “lost and found themselves at the edge of a cliff,” according to the post.
Vollmer had slipped and fell off the top of a cliff, according to the Facebook post. At around 9:50 p.m., the Kingston Police Department was called regarding the accidental fall. It was ultimately decided that the search for the student’s recovery had to wait “until daylight” due to a “lack of light and poor weather conditions,” according to the post.
On Tuesday morning, the student was pronounced dead at the scene after suffering “severe trauma from the fall,” according to the post, which also stated that members of the Kingston Fire Department Rope Rescue Team and members of the Kingston Police Department Emergency Services Unit recovered the student’s body.
An official statement from the university via email from President Donald P. Christian was issued to the campus community at 12:46 p.m. on Tuesday, which released information regarding the student and stated that information about services will be shared once it becomes available.
“We extend our deepest sympathy to Katherine’s family and friends and to the students, faculty and staff who knew her,” the statement said.
During his 30 years in police service, Croizer can only recall one other similar incident in this area, when someone was injured on a fall that he had responded to.
“Losing someone is painful, and the college has and will continue to offer support to those affected by Katherine’s sad and untimely death,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Stephanie Blaisdell. “Helping each other through a tragedy is perhaps what best distinguishes a community like SUNY New Paltz. We all need to be here for each other in this difficult time.”
The president’s statement also encouraged employees to reach out to the employment assistance program at 845-257-2886. Student services are available through the campus’s psychological counseling center for those who are seeking assistance, and they can be contacted via phone at 845-257-2920.