U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-IN) was killed in a two-car crash on Wednesday afternoon in northern Indiana, authorities said.
The crash occurred after a northbound vehicle slipped over the state road’s centerline and collided with the SUV carrying Walorski, according to the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office. Also killed were the SUV’s two other occupants: Walorski’s 28-year-old communications director, Emma Thomson, and Zachery Potts, 27, the chairman of the St. Joseph County Republican Party.
The driver of the northbound vehicle, identified as 56-year-old Edith Schmucker, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Both the sheriff’s office and the Elkhart County Coroner’s Office are investigating the crash.
Walorski, 58, had represented Indiana’s 2nd congressional district, which includes Elkhart and South Bend, since 2013. She was the top-ranking Republican serving on the House Ethics Committee. Walorski was gearing up to take on a leadership role overseeing worker and family support on the Ways and Means Committee if the GOP should take back the House later this year, according to Politico.
The 58-year-old had previously served three terms in the Indiana statehouse. Prior to entering politics in 2005, Walorski had been a television reporter for WSBT-TV before moving to Romania to do Christian missionary work for several years.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy confirmed Walorski’s death with a “heavy heart,” sharing a statement from her 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,” it read in part. “She has returned home to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers.”
The statement added that there would be no further comment for the moment.
Tributes from Walorski’s colleagues were quick to flood social media.
U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, a Republican representing Indiana’s 3rd district, mourned Walorski’s loss in a statement, calling her “my dear friend and one of the greatest public servants I’ve ever known.”
Hailing Walorski as “selfless, humble, and compassionate,” Banks added, “She was a devout Christian, a passionate advocate for life, and a leader among Hoosier representatives. Everything Jackie did was to serve others.”
“I’m truly devastated,” Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) wrote. “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.”
Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA) said that Walorski “always had a warm smile and a word of advice, and I will miss her friendship.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose term as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, overlapped with Walorski’s representation of the district, said he was “shocked and saddened” by the news. “My thoughts and prayers are with her family and the other victims of this terrible crash,” he added.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday ordered the flags at the U.S. Capitol to fly at half-staff in honor of Walorski, her spokesperson said.