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A staffer for U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski was trying to pass a flatbed truck on a northern Indiana highway last month when the truck they were riding in crashed into an oncoming car, killing Walorski and three others. people, police said Friday.
A witness riding behind the SUV told investigators that it sped up, crossed the center line of the two-lane highway as it approached the truck and got in the way of the other car when the crash occurred around 12:30 p.m. m. on Aug. 3, according to the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office.
Data from the airbag control module of the SUV driven by Zachery Potts, 27, who was a Walorski district director, showed it was going 77 mph at the time of the crash on a rural stretch of Indiana 19 near the Wakarusa city, the office said.
“All evidence and information gathered is consistent with someone attempting to overtake another vehicle on a two-lane highway,” the office said in a statement.
The SUV in which US Representative Jackie Walorski was traveling crossed the center line of a state highway and caused the head-on collision.
Investigators determined that the SUV driven by Zachery Potts, 27, (above) of Mishawaka, Indiana, crossed the center line while attempting to pass a flatbed truck in a rural area near the city of Wakarusa.
Emma Thomson, 28, Walorski’s director of communications, was also killed in the crash.
Investigators determined that the SUV driven by 27-year-old Zachery Potts (left) crossed the center line while attempting to pass a flatbed truck in a rural area near the city of Wakarusa. Walorski’s communications director, Emma Thomson (right), was also killed.
Walorski and his staff’s southbound vehicle collided with a northbound vehicle after turning into that lane.
Walorski and his staff had been in the city of Warsaw, Indiana, hours before the accident.
The police department’s initial account was that the car driven by Edith Schmucker, 56, Nappanee, Indiana, crossed the path of the SUV, but the bureau released a statement saying investigators had spoken with witnesses and seen video evidence that showed that his preliminary determination was wrong.
Walorski, 58, was a Republican who had first been elected to represent Northern Indiana’s 2nd congressional district in 2012 and was seeking re-election this year to a sixth term.
Walorski was a reliable Republican vote in Congress, even against accepting electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania for President Joe Biden following the Capitol insurrection.
Representative Jackie Walorski is pictured in 2018 speaking about then-President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs on auto imports.
Legislators in the Indiana House of Representatives bow their heads as Republican Rep. Timothy Wesco (left) honors Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, in August
The sheriff’s office released statements from the county coroner ruling that the deaths of Walorski and the others were accidental due to injuries sustained in the crash.
Investigators blamed the accident on Potts for “driving left of center with a contributing factor of excessive speed.”
Also killed in the crash were Emma Thomson, 28, who was Walorski’s director of communications, and Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee, Indiana, who was driving the other vehicle.
The sheriff’s office said investigators found no signs of mechanical failure in any of the vehicles or any evidence of cell phone use by anyone in the vehicles when the crash occurred.
Dean Swihart, who was married to Walorski for 27 years, said he was proud of his wife.
“Jackie took over any room she walked into, and it wasn’t because she was six feet tall,” Swihart said.
Walorski was born and raised in South Bend, graduating from Riley High School in 1981 and attending Taylor University.
After college, Walorski returned to the area and became a television reporter for WSBT-TV.
He then moved to work at the St. Joseph County Humane Society, followed by a job at Ancilla College, which he served from 1991 to 1996.
Yakym will face Democrat Paul Steury, a Goshen science professor, and Libertarian William Henry.
Indiana’s last special election for a congressional seat was in 2010, when Republican Rep. Mark Souder resigned shortly after winning the May primary.
So-Govt. Mitch Daniels decided to hold the special election at the same time as the November general election for the full two-year term, citing the potential cost of a separate election and the convenience to voters.