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Speeding by Jackie Walorski's driver was factor in crash that killed her, 3 others, police say

_U.S. Representative Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.).png
Posted at 2:23 PM, Sep 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-16 14:25:15-04

ELKHART COUNTY — The August crash that led to the deaths of U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and three other people was caused primarily by her driver traveling left-of-center and speeding while trying to pass another vehicle, police now say.

Zachery Potts was driving an SUV occupied by Walorski and another one of her staffers, Emma Thompson, when he crossed the center line to the left, striking another vehicle and killing its driver, Edith Schmucker, the Elkhart County Sheriff's Office has said.

"Our investigation has determined that the cause of the crash was driving left of center with a contributing factor of excessive speed. The at-fault vehicle was the Toyota RAV4 driven by Zachery Potts," a Friday news release from the sheriff's office states.

Police say neither Potts nor the other driver was using a phone during the crash and neither vehicle had a mechanical failure.

The crash happened Aug. 3 on State Road 19 near State Road 119. Walorski and her staffers were traveling southbound as Schmucker was traveling northbound.

The sheriff's office originally said it was Schmucker's vehicle that crossed over and struck the SUV with Walorski inside. It later clarified that the SUV crossed over and struck Schmucker's vehicle.

On Friday, the sheriff's office said Potts was trying to pass a flatbed truck when he swerved into the southbound lane and collided with Schmucker.

Evidence determined Potts was driving at about 82 mp about five seconds before the crash and coasted at about 77 mph in the milliseconds before the vehicle's airbags were deployed.

The sheriff's office said it had consulted with the Indiana State Police for an independent review. Both agencies' conclusions were consistent with each other, according to the sheriff's office.

The Elkhart County Coroner's Office said Schmucker, Potts and Thompson died from "multiple injures" caused during the crash — but that Walorski died from her cervical spine being dislocated. All four peoples' deaths were ruled accidental.

Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed an executive order calling for a special election in Indiana's second Congressional district to fill the vacancy left after Walorski's death. It'll be held concurrently with the Nov. 8 general election.

As the Congressperson for the second district, Walorski represented a large chunk of north-central Indiana. The district encompasses all or part of Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko, LaPorte, Marshall, Miami, Pulaski, Starke, St. Joseph and Wabash counties.

That includes South Bend and Elkhart, the two largest cities in that part of the state.