A staffer for U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski was trying to pass a flat-bed truck on a northern Indiana highway last month when the SUV they were in crashed into an oncoming car, killing Walorski and three other people, police said Friday.
A witness traveling behind the SUV told investigators it sped up, crossed the centerline of the two-lane highway as it neared the truck and pulled into the path of the other car when the crash happened about 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 3, according to the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office.
Airbag control module data from the SUV driven by Zachery Potts, 27, who was Walorski’s district director, showed it was going 77 mph at the time of the crash on a rural stretch of Indiana 19 near the town of Wakarusa, the office said.
“All of the evidence and information gathered is consistent with someone attempting to pass another vehicle on a two-lane roadway,” the office said in a statement.
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Walorski, 58, was a Republican who had first been elected to represent northern Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District in 2012 and was seeking reelection this year to a sixth term.
The sheriff’s office released statements from the county coroner ruling the deaths of Walorski and the others as accidental from injuries suffered in the crash. Investigators blamed the crash 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 communications director, and Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee, Indiana, who was driving the other vehicle.
The sheriff’s office said investigators found no signs of mechanical failures with either vehicle or any evidence of cellphone use by anyone in the vehicles when crash happened.
Republican officials selected Rudy Yakym, an executive with Elkhart distribution company Kem Krest and a longtime political ally of Walorski, to replace her on the November election ballot in the heavily GOP district. The district’s congressional seat will remain vacant until a special election on the November ballot to complete Walorski’s term through rest of this year.
Yakym will face Democrat Paul Steury, a science teacher from Goshen, and Libertarian William Henry.