Indiana Rep. Walorski, 2 staffers killed in head-on crash

  • In this July 19, 2018, photo, Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Walorski's office says that she was killed Wednesday in a car accident. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON — Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski was killed Wednesday in a car crash in her northern Indiana district along with two members of her congressional staff and another person, police said.

The crash happened about 12:30 p.m. when a car crossed the center line on a state highway and collided head-on with the SUV Walorski was riding in, the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office said. Three people in the SUV, including Walorski, 58, were killed, as was a woman driving the other car, authorities said.

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Walorski, who served on the House Ways and Means Committee, was first elected to represent Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District in 2012. She previously served six years in the state’s Legislature.

“She has returned home to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers,” Walorski’s chief of staff Tim Cummings said in a statement.

Walorski and her husband, Dean Swihart, were previously Christian missionaries in Romania, where they established a foundation that provided food and medical supplies to impoverished children. She worked as a television news reporter in South Bend before turning to politics.

Also killed in the crash were Zachery Potts, 27, of Mishawaka, Indiana; Emma Thomson, 28, of Washington, D.C.; and Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee, Indiana, according to the sheriff’s office.

Cummings confirmed that Potts and Thomson were members of Walorski’s congressional staff. Thomson was Walorski’s communications director, while Potts was her district director and the Republican chairman for northern Indiana’s St. Joseph County.

Schmucker was driving the other car, according to the sheriff’s office. The crash, which occurred in a rural area near the town of Wakarusa, is still under investigation.

Walorski was seeking reelection this year to a sixth term in the solidly Republican district.

She was active on agriculture and food policy in Congress, often working across the aisle on those issues. A co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus, she introduced legislation with Democrats to bring back a Nixon-era White House event on food insecurity.

President Joe Biden pointed to that work in a statement crediting Walorski for years of public service.

“We may have represented different parties and disagreed on many issues, but she was respected by members of both parties for her work,” Biden said.

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