Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski was killed in her home state of Indiana on Wednesday. She was 58 years old. Two of her staffers were traveling in the vehicle, and they were killed in the accident as well. Authorities identified the passengers in the vehicle with Walorski as Zachery Potts, 27; and Emma Thomson, 28.
The driver of the other vehicle, Edith Schmucker, 56, was pronouced deceased at the scene of the accident as well.
The head-on collision took place in Elkhart County, Indiana. The local sheriff’s department were the first to respond to the accident on State Road 19. Officials spoke to the nature of the accident, and they revealed that the “northbound vehicle” “traveled left of center and collided head-on” with a sedan. Rep. Walorski and her staffers were the occupants of the sports utility vehicle. However, the Sheriff’s Department said that both their office and the Coroner’s Office of Elkhart County were still investigating the matter.
Representative Walorski worked on the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee; she had been a member of the U.S. Congress since she was initially elected in 2012.
Several of Rep. Walorski’s Congressional colleagues have made public statements about her passing. Representative Steve Scalise (LA) called Rep. Walorski “an instrumental member of our conference” and described her as “kind, tenacious, and committed to helping others.” A fellow Congressman also from Indiana called Rep. Walorski “a dear friend.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) retweeted the announcement of Rep. Walorski’s passing and said he had a “heavy heart.”
Two of Rep. Walorski’s most dedicated staff members were traveling with the Congresswoman on Wednesday. Zach Potts and Emma Thomson were described by others as “the epitome of public servants who cared deeply about the work they performed.” Potts was a district director, and Thomson served Rep. Walorski as a communications director.
Sheriff Jeff Siegel said that the accident occurred on Wednesday around 12:30 PM. Potts was driving the Toyota Rav4 that Rep. Walorski was traveling in. All three passengers were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the accident. The sheriff updated his original statement from Wednesday, in which the sheriff said that Ms. Schmucker had veered into the wrong lane and hit Rep. Walorski’s vehicle.
In Thursday’s statement, the Sheriff’s Department updated the original statement to reveal that it was the Toyota SUV driven by Rep. Walorski’s staffer that had veered into the wrong lane “for reasons that are unknown at this time.” The sheriff added that both eyewitness and video evidence had contributed to the updated information.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has ordered that flags at the U.S. Capitol to fly at half-staff on Wednesday and Thursday. To do so is a custom in the sad event that a member of Congress has passed away, particularly if that individual is still in office.
Rep. Walorski’s Second Congressional District includes South Bend, Indiana (where current Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was once mayor). Prior to her service in the United States Congress, Rep. Walorski had served for three terms in the Indiana state legislation.
Rep. Walorski was also on the House Ethics Committee where she was ranked as the top Republican; this is in addition to her work on the House Ways and Means Committee.
President Joe Biden also released a statement sending his condolences, he related that he and First Lady Jill Biden were both “shocked and saddened” by the news. President Biden added, “(Rep. Walorski) spent a lifetime serving the community that she grew up in. 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 (R-TX) lovingly referred to his colleague as ” the happy Hoosier who would light up the room with her joy, passion, brilliance and love of life.” Brady tweeted that there was nothing Rep. Walorski couldn’t do.