Washington — Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana died in a car crash Wednesday, the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office said.
Sheriff Jeff Siegel said Walorski, 58, was in an SUV traveling south when he was struck head-on by another car shortly after 12:30 p.m. All three occupants of the vehicle — Walorski, her district director, Zachery Potts, 27 , and communications director Emma Thomson, 28 — died as a result of their injuries.
The sole occupant of the other car involved in the crash, which was traveling northbound, was also pronounced dead at the scene, according to Siegel.
An investigation is underway by the Elkhart County Coroner’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered flags on the Capitol to be flown at half-staff, her spokesman Drew Hamill said. White House flags will also be flown at half-staff on Wednesday and Thursday in memory of Walorski, the White House said.
Walorski was elected to represent Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes South Bend, in 2012 after serving three terms in the Legislature. She was the top Republican on the House Ethics Committee and served on the Ways and Means Committee.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy confirmed Walorski’s death in a statement on Twitter from her office, noting that her husband, Dean Swihart, had been informed that the congresswoman had been killed in the collision.
“She has returned home to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” the statement said. “Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers.”
Indiana Senator Mike Brown told reporters: “I just found out about an hour ago. It’s one of those things that takes the absolute vibe out of you. I was on the phone and got a message. I spent a lot of time with Jackie. I got to know her early when I entered the political sphere. He said she had “always been a good friend” and added, “when it’s close to home and you know the people, it’s hard to pass.”
Tributes quickly poured in for Walorski from elected officials on both sides of the aisle and members of Indiana’s congressional delegation.
President Biden said in a statement that he and First Lady Jill Biden were “shocked and saddened” by the news. Walorski “spent a lifetime serving the community she grew up in,” he said. “We may have represented different parties and disagreed on many issues, but she was respected by members of both parties for her work.”
Congressman 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, sparkle and love of life.”
“It is OK [Walorski] couldn’t do,” he tweeted.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York, said on Twitter she is “absolutely heartbroken” and “my heart goes out to the families of each of the victims,” while my Indiana colleague 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 governor, said he and his wife are praying for the Walorski family and the Potts and Thomson families.
“She served Indiana in the Legislature and Congress with integrity and principle for nearly two decades and will be greatly missed,” he said in a couple of tweets.
Indiana Sen. Todd Young tweeted that he was “truly devastated” by Walorski’s death and said she “loved Hoosiers and dedicated her life to fighting for them. I will never forget her spirit, her positive attitude and most importantly her friendship.
Alan He contributed to this report.