The car Indiana Congresswoman Jackie Walorski was riding in when she and three others died was the one that caused a crash when it veered into oncoming traffic, contrary to initial reports that it was the other driver’s fault, authorities said.
CBS Chicago points out that the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office originally said a maroon Buick LeSabre headed south on State Road 19 crossed the center line and hit the Toyota RAV 4 in which Walorski and two aides were heading north on Wednesday afternoon.
But the sheriff’s office said Thursday morning that, based on new information, it had determined that its preliminary findings were incorrect. It said additional eyewitness and video evidence confirmed it was the RAV 4 that crossed into oncoming traffic “for reasons that are unknown at this time.”
All three people in the RAV 4 — Walorski, 58; her district director Zachery Potts, 27; and communications director Emma Thomson, 28 — died as a result of their injuries. The driver and sole occupant of the LeSabre — 56-year-old Edith Schmucker — also died in the crash.
Officials said all four were wearing seatbelts and the vehicles’ airbags did deploy.
The crash remains under investigation.
Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., speaks during a news conference in the Capitol on legislation that would increase the accountability of the Veterans Affairs Department, on April 3, 2014.
Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
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 as well.
“She has returned home to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement on Walorski’s death. “Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers.”
Tributes for Walorski quickly poured in from elected officials on both sides of the aisle and from members of Indiana’s congressional delegation.
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 the state’s governor from 2013 to 2017, 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.”