ELKHART COUNTY — U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R - Indiana District 2) died Wednesday afternoon following a crash in Elkhart County, according to the Elkhart County Sheriff's Office.
The sheriff's office originally said Walorski and two other people were in an SUV traveling southbound on State Road 19 near State Road 119, when a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction crossed over the center line and struck the SUV head-on.
But on Thursday, the agency said the crash happened after the car Walorski was in crossed a center line and struck the second vehicle "for reasons that are unknown at this time."
According to the Elkhart County Sheriff's Office, their deputies responded to the scene about 12:30 p.m.
At the same time, Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee was traveling northbound on IN 19 south of IN 119 when her vehicle was struck by the SUV with Walorski inside.
All four people, including Walorski, died in the crash.
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.— Jackie Walorski (@RepWalorski) August 3, 2022
The other two occupants in Walorski's vehicle were Zachery Potts, 27, of Mishawaka and Emma Thomson, 28, of Washington D.C.
Potts was Walorski's district director and the Republican chairman for St. Joseph County. Thomson was Walorski’s communications director.
"All of us are on the road a lot and you spend those hours, endless [hours] sometimes. You never imagine that one day that could happen. When I heard that, it's like the ultimate gut punch," U.S. Sen Mike Braun (R-Indiana) said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "Emma Thomson, Zach Potts, along with her — three Hoosiers that we will miss."
Braun called Walorski his friend and one of the first people he met when he was thinking about becoming a senator.
In an interview with ABC affiliate WBND, Indiana Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch said at first she didn't believe the news and was heartbroken. The two served together in the Indiana House of Representatives.
"Jackie Walorski was bigger than life ... Jackie was the type of person where you always knew where you stood, she was very outspoken, but she had a heart that was [as] big as Indiana," Crouch said. "You always knew that at the end of the day Jackie was a fighter, she was a warrior and she would fight for her constituents and for Hoosiers throughout the state of Indiana. The state has experienced a great, great loss and one whose shoes will never be filled."
According to her congressional biography, Walorski was born in South Bend and served in the Indiana House of Representatives from 2004-2010 before being elected to the U.S. Congress in 2013.
Following the announcement of Walorski's passing, Governor Eric Holcomb issued flags to be flown at half-staff until the date of her burial. Flags also flew at half staff at the U.S. Capitol and the White House.
Several of Walorski's current and former colleagues have released statements following her death.
"Jill and I are shocked and saddened by the death of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski of Indiana along with two members of her staff in a car accident today in Indiana. Born in her beloved South Bend as the daughter of a meat-cutter and firefighter, she spent a lifetime serving the community that she grew up in – as a journalist, a nonprofit director, a state legislator, and eventually as a Member of Congress for the past nine and half years. 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. She also served as co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus, and my team and I appreciated her partnership as we plan for a historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health this fall that will be marked by her deep care for the needs of rural America. We send our deepest condolences to her husband, Dean, to the families of her staff members, Zachery Potts and Emma Thomson, who lost their lives in public service, and to the people of Indiana’s Second District who lost a representative who was one of their own."
"I was shocked and heartbroken when I received the news today about the tragic death of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski. Jackie and I served together in the Indiana House of Representatives, and she was a fighter for her constituents and conservative Hoosier values. My heart goes out to her husband, Dean, and the rest of her family and friends. She will be deeply missed."
“My heart is broken for Dean, the Walorski family, and all who knew and loved my friend Jackie. Jackie was a true public servant –selfless, humble, and compassionate. She was a devout Christian, a passionate advocate for life, and a leader among Hoosier representatives. Everything Jackie did was to serve others. Before Congress, she served in the Indiana Statehouse and she and her husband served as missionaries in Romania where they provided impoverished children food and medical care. From my first day in Congress, Jackie showed me kindness and grace. She had a heart of gold, and I will miss her dearly. Please join Amanda and I in praying for Jackie’s loved ones and the friends and family of her two staff members who also lost their lives in this tragic accident.”
Karen and I are heartbroken by the tragic passing of our dear friend Rep. Jackie Walorski. She served Indiana in the Statehouse and the Congress with integrity and principle for nearly two decades and will be deeply missed. Our prayers are with her husband Dean, her family, and the families of Zachery Potts and Emma Thomson who also perished in the crash. We're praying God’s comfort over their families and to all who loved and admired this truly inspiring Indiana leader. God Bless Jackie Walorski.
“My heart goes out to the families of Congresswoman Walorski, Emma Thomson and Zach Potts. Working in politics, you develop a tight bond with the people you work with, and the loss of three dedicated Hoosiers is insurmountable. Congresswoman Walorski and I served in the Indiana House of Representatives with the shared values of creating a better state. May the memories of their legacies and work be a blessing to those who loved them and the people they served.”
“We mourn the loss of Representative Jackie Waloski who supported protections for the most vulnerable among us. The pro-life movement is deeply indebted to Congresswoman Walorski for her service on behalf of the unborn. Our thoughts and prayers are with the congresswoman’s family at this time.”
“On behalf of the Indiana Democratic Party, I want to express our sincere condolences to the friends and loved ones of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, Chairman Zach Potts, and Emma Thomson.
Jackie Walorski was a dedicated public servant, who cared deeply about her constituents and northern Indiana. If you’re a Hoosier, you’re a member of one family, and Indiana tragically lost dedicated family members today.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families, to members of the communities across the Second District, and to the Indiana Republican Party.
Congresswoman Walorski served with devotion and passion in both the Indiana General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives. She made a lasting impact on Indiana and the United States.”
I am heartbroken to hear of the untimely passing of my colleague, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, two of her Senior Staffers and others who passed today in an automobile crash in Northern Indiana. I, along with all Hoosiers are devastated by this loss. I am praying for the families, the staff and constituents of the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana.
"I'm truly devastated. Jackie loved Hoosiers and devoted her life to fighting for them. I'll never forget her spirit, her positive attitude, and most importantly her friendship. All of Indiana mourns her passing, along with the tragic deaths of her staff Emma Thomson and Zach Potts. Please join me in praying for their families in this difficult time.”
“Jackie Walorski was a tireless advocate for the Hoosiers she represented and a kind friend to everyone she met. She faithfully served her constituents and her Lord and Savior, and I trust she is now wrapped in the arms of Christ. This is a devastating loss, and we grieve for her two staff members – Zach and Emma – who had their whole lives ahead of them. Please join me and Maureen in praying for the families and friends of those lost on this tragic day for Indiana.”
Denise and I, and our whole team are deeply saddened to hear the tragic news of Congresswoman Jackie Waloski's passing. She was a dear friend and trusted mentor who always had serving Hoosiers at the top of her mind. She worked tirelessly on behalf of the community she loved, and words cannot describe what a tremendous loss this is for the State of Indiana and our Nation. I ask everyone to join me in praying for the Congresswoman's family, friends, staff and those she served during this difficult time.
“There could not be worse news. I’m heartsick at this tragedy. Jackie Walorski was a great public servant, a brave and constant ally for change during all my years in elected office, and a great representative of her district at both the state and national levels. I can’t say how much I’ll miss her.”
"Jackie Walorski was a woman who stood strong in her values, cared for her family, and served Hoosiers well. I have many great memories and stories of our time together in Congress and on the campaign trail. In addition to everything else, she had a great sense of humor. She will be missed. Our sympathies also go out to the families of Zach Potts and Emma Thomson who died in the same tragic accident. Hoosiers across the state mourn the loss of these public servants."
“I am devastated to learn of the passing of my good friend, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski. She was an incredible public servant for Hoosiers and leader within the Republican Party. The entire Republican National Committee is praying for her family, as well as the families of the two staff who were also tragically killed.”
“Today, we mourn the tragic loss of Rep. Jackie Walorski and members of her team, Zach Potts and Emma Thomson. In her years representing the people of northern Indiana as both a state representative and member of Congress, Rep. Walorski built a legacy of selfless service. It was a privilege of mine to work alongside her, as I have never met a more fierce or effective fighter for what she believed in.
It takes an incredible team to work and stand beside an effective elected official. There were no better examples than Zach and Emma, who served not only Rep. Walorski, but their district, state, and country. I ask all Hoosiers to please join me in praying for the families of each of the victims of this tragic accident as we mourn these difficult losses.”
"Janet and I are devastated by the tragic loss of our friend Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and her two staffers - Emma Thomson and Zach Potts - earlier today. Our broken hearts go out to her husband Dean and the entire family during this time of unimaginable mourning. At every level of public service Jackie was known to be a positive force of nature, a patriot and a relentless policy maker with an unwavering loyalty to her constituents. Jackie’s record of achievement is impossible to quantify. She will be remembered as a fighter with a huge heart that always went the extra mile and I’ll treasure the times we walked a few of those together. Every waking moment for her was energetically devoted to improving the lives of all Hoosiers better, the epitome of a good and faithful servant. She, and the example she set, will be missed every day forward.”
The crash is still under investigation.
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