Rep. Jackie Walorski (R- Ind.) and three other people, including two members of her staff, were killed in a car crash Wednesday afternoon, according to the Elkhart County, Ind., Sheriff’s Office.
“Dean Swihart, Jackie’s husband, was just informed by the Elkhart County Sheriff’s office that Jackie was killed in a car accident this afternoon. She has returned home to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers. We will have no further comment at this time.”
Walorski, 58, was involved in a two-vehicle crash on Route 19 south of Route 119, according to the sheriff’s office, that also claimed the lives of her staffers Zachery Potts, 27, and Emma Thomson, 28, and the driver of the other vehicle, Edith Schmucker, 56. Schmucker, of Nappanee, Ind., was pronounced dead at the scene.
The sheriff’s office said Thursday in a statement that the sport-utility vehicle driven by Potts was northbound on Route 19 when it “crossed the center line for reasons that are unknown at this time and the two vehicles collided.” The SUV struck the Buick LeSabre driven by Schmucker, which was headed southbound.
The sheriff’s office said the preliminary investigation at the scene and the initial account of the direction of the vehicles and which one crossed the center line were not correct. The new account is based on witnesses and video evidence, the office said, adding that the investigation is ongoing.
All occupants of both vehicles were confirmed to have been wearing seat belts, the sheriff’s office said, and air bags did deploy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ordered the flags at the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-staff in memory of Walorski.
“A lifelong Hoosier, Congresswoman Walorski lived a life of service: whether caring for impoverished children in Romania, representing her community in the Indiana Statehouse or serving nearly a decade in the House,” Pelosi said in a statement. “She passionately brought the voices of her north Indiana constituents to the Congress, and she was admired by colleagues on both sides of the aisle for her personal kindness.”
Walorski had served in Congress since 2013 representing the 2nd Congressional District. She was the top Republican on the House Ethics Committee and was a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
The South Bend, Ind., native worked in journalism and academia before being elected to Congress in 2012. A religious conservative, she was educated at Christian colleges and did mission work before coming to Capitol Hill.
McCarthy appointed her in early 2021 to the ranking Republican spot on the sensitive Ethics Committee, an evenly divided panel that handles investigations of lawmakers.
“I’m honored to take on the important responsibility of holding members of the House to the highest standards of transparency, accountability, and ethical conduct,” she said in a statement upon receiving that appointment.
President Biden, who ordered the flags at the White House to half-staff in the congresswoman’s honor, released a statement saying he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked and deeply saddened” by Walorski’s death.
“We may have represented different parties and disagreed on many issues, but she was respected by members of both parties for her work on the House Ways and Means Committee on which she served,” Biden said.
Fellow Republicans expressed grief Wednesday shortly after news of Walorski’s death was made public.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called Walorski a “good friend.”
“She was an incredible public servant for Hoosiers and leader within the Republican Party,” McDaniel said in a statement. “The entire Republican National Committee is praying for her family, as well as the families of the two staff who were also tragically killed.”
Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.) tweeted that he was “truly devastated.”
“Jackie loved Hoosiers and devoted her life to fighting for them,” he wrote. “I’ll never forget her spirit, her positive attitude, and most importantly her friendship.”
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) tweeted that he was praying for the families of Walorski and her staffers.
“Devastated to hear the horrible news of the passing of Jackie Walorski and her two staffers,” Scalise wrote. “She was a dear friend who loved serving the people of Indiana in Congress.”
In the event of a Republican takeover of the House after the November midterm elections, Walorski would have been on track to chair the Ways and Means worker and family support subcommittee. Walorski, an evangelical Christian, was known for her conservative stances on social issues.
Earlier this month, she opposed the Women’s Health Protection Act and the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, calling Democrats’ stance on abortion “dangerous” and “extreme.”
“At Speaker Pelosi’s urging, House Democrats once again voted to greenlight abortion at any time in pregnancy, anywhere in the country, and bankrolled by American taxpayers,” Walorski said in a statement. “Abortion on demand is a direct affront to pro-life values and Americans’ conscience rights.”
A Donald Trump supporter, Walorski voted against impeaching the president in 2021 for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which resulted in the deaths of one police officer and four others and injured more than 100 law enforcement officers. She also voted against confirming Democrat Joe Biden’s victories in Arizona and Pennsylvania in the 2020 presidential election.