GOP Rep. Jackie Walorski killed in car crash, sheriff says
Washington — Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana was killed in a car crash Wednesday, along with two of her aides and the driver of another vehicle, the Elkhart County Sheriff's Office said.
In an updated release on Thursday, Sheriff Jeff Siegel said Walorski, 58, was in a SUV traveling northbound when it collided with another car just after 12:30 p.m. All three occupants in the vehicle — Walorski, her district director Zachery Potts, 27, and communications director Emma Thomson, 28 — died as a result of their injuries. Potts was driving the Toyota RAV4, Siegel said, and all occupants in both cars involved in the crash were wearing seatbelts.
Siegel said the RAV4 crossed into the other lane "for reasons that are unknown at this time," causing the collision.
Edith Schmucker was the sole person in the other car involved in the crash, a Buick LeSabre traveling southbound. She was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Siegel.
In his original release Wednesday, the sheriff said Schmucker was traveling northbound and crossed into the opposite lane. But on Thursday, Siegel said that information was incorrect, citing additional "eyewitness and video evidence" that indicated it was the RAV4 that drifted into the other lane.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the flags at the U.S. Capitol to fly at half-staff, her spokesman, Drew Hammill, said. Flags at the White House will also be flown at half-staff on Wednesday and Thursday in Walorski's memory, the White House said.
Walorski was elected to represent Indiana's 2nd Congressional District, which includes South Bend, in 2012 after serving three terms in the statehouse. She was the top Republican on the House Ethics Committee and served on the Ways and Means Committee.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy confirmed Walorski's death in a tweeted statement from her office, noting that her husband, Dean Swihart, was informed the congresswoman had been killed in the collision.
"She has returned home to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ," the statement said. "Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers."
Indiana Sen. Mike Braun told reporters, "I just learned about an hour or so ago. It's one of those things that takes the absolute air out of you. I was on the phone and a text came through. Spent a lot of time with Jackie. Got to know her early when I stuck my neck into the political realm." He said she was "always a good friend," and added, "when it's close to home, and you know the people, it's tough to get through."
Tributes for Walorski quickly poured in from elected officials on both sides of the aisle and members of Indiana's congressional delegation.
President Biden said in a statement that he and first lady Jill Biden were "shocked and saddened" by the news. Walorski "spent a lifetime serving the community that she grew up in," he said. "We may have represented different parties and disagreed on many issues, but she was respected by members of both parties for her work."
Rep. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the Ways and Means panel, said the congresswoman was "the 'happy Hoosier' who would light up a room with her joy, passion, brilliance and love of life."
"There is nothing [Walorski] couldn't do," he tweeted.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York, said on Twitter she is "absolutely heartbroken," and "my heart goes out to the families of each of the victims," while fellow Indiana Rep. Jim Banks praised Walorski as a "true public servant — selfless, humble, and compassionate."
"From my first day in Congress, Jackie showed me kindness and grace," he said in a statement. "She had a heart of gold, and I will miss her dearly."
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who also represented Indiana in the House before serving as governor, said he and his wife are praying for Walorski's family, and the families of Potts and Thomson.
"She served Indiana in the statehouse and the Congress with integrity and principle for nearly two decades and will be deeply missed," he said in a pair of tweets.
Indiana Sen. Todd Young tweeted that he is "truly devastated" by Walorski's death and said she "loved Hoosiers and devoted her life to fighting for them. I'll never forget her spirit, her positive attitude, and most importantly her friendship.
Alan He contributed to this report.