NAPPANEE, Ind. — Lawmakers are paying tribute to U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, who was among four people killed in a car crash Wednesday in Elkhart County.
The crash happened around 12:32 p.m. in Elkhart County near Nappanee, according to our newsgathering partners at Goshen News.
The two staff members killed alongside Rep. Walorski were identified as Zachery Potts, 27, of Mishawaka, and Emma Thomson, 28, of Washington, D.C. Thomson served as Walorski's communications director, while Potts served as a St. Joseph County Republican Party chairman.
"Janet and I are devastated by the tragic loss of our friend Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and her two staffers - Emma Thomson and Zach Potts - earlier today. Our broken hearts go out to her husband Dean and the entire family during this time of unimaginable mourning," Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said in one of a series of tweets Wednesday.
“It’s just unfathomable tragedy. You know, to have three lives that were so vibrant and so active and so impactful for Indiana to be lost in this kind of an accident, it’s really hard to kind of wrap your arms around this,” said Kyle Hupfer, chairman of the Indiana Republican Party. "All three of them are just going to leave gaping holes for what they have done."
Hupfer said Walorski "was very passionate about what she believed in."
GALLERY: Life and legacy of Indiana Congresswoman Jackie Walorksi
A report from the Elkhart County Sheriff's Office said the northbound passenger car traveled left of center and collided with Walorski's vehicle head-on. The sole occupant of the northbound vehicle, 56-year-old Edith Schmucker of Nappanee, was also pronounced deceased at the scene.
As news came out about Walorski's death, prayers for her family and those of the three others killed in the crash came pouring in from people who served with her throughout decades of service.
That included former vice president and Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who said he and his wife, Karen, are heartbroken by the "tragic passing" of their dear friend.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg also offered condolences online, saying the news of Rep. Walorski's passing was shocking.
In a statement, Indiana Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young said he was devastated” by Walorski’s death.
"I'm truly devastated. 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. All of Indiana mourns her passing, along with the tragic deaths of her staff Emma Thomson and Zach Potts. Please join me in praying for their families in this difficult time," he said in the statement.
Senator Mike Braun released a statement in which he called Walorski a "tireless advocate" for Hoosiers:
“Jackie Walorski was a tireless advocate for the Hoosiers she represented and a kind friend to everyone she met. She faithfully served her constituents and her Lord and Savior, and I trust she is now wrapped in the arms of Christ. This is a devastating loss, and we grieve for her two staff members – Zach and Emma – who had their whole lives ahead of them. Please join me and Maureen in praying for the families and friends of those lost on this tragic day for Indiana.”
Later, Braun spoke on the Senate floor about those lost in the crash.
Rep. Jim Baird, R-Indiana, said Walorski "was insightful, she was professional and yet she could be fun," adding that she "typified the kind of legislators I think we all look to."
"It's not easy for me to talk about because I cared a lot about her from the standpoint of being a good person and a good legislator for the state of Indiana. So the fact that we, the state, have lost her is unfortunate," Baird said. "She had the kind of personality that other colleagues from other states sought her advice and so on. And so as a legislator she was extremely good and as a person, she was a very caring individual. She cared about people."
Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, shared information on Walorski's life, describing how she and her husband were missionaries prior to her stepping into the political world:
“My heart is broken for Dean, the Walorski family, and all who knew and loved my friend Jackie. Jackie was a true public servant –selfless, humble, and compassionate. She was a devout Christian, a passionate advocate for life, and a leader among Hoosier representatives. Everything Jackie did was to serve others. Before Congress, she served in the Indiana Statehouse and she and her husband served as missionaries in Romania where they provided impoverished children food and medical care. From my first day in Congress, Jackie showed me kindness and grace. She had a heart of gold, and I will miss her dearly. Please join Amanda and I in praying for Jackie’s loved ones and the friends and family of her two staff members who also lost their lives in this tragic accident.”
Senate Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also offered condolences after hearing of the loss, as did Indiana lawmakers Rep. Frank J. Mrvan, Attorney General Todd Rokita, Rep. Victoria Spartz, and Rep. Andre Carson.
In addition to their individual messages, the Indiana Delegation issued a joint statement on Walorski's passing Wednesday evening.
"Staying true to her Hoosier values of hardwork, determination, and public service, Representative Jackie Walorski fought each and every day for the lives and livelihoods of Hoosiers in Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District. She was a great friend and colleague to many of us in Congress and her untimely death is a tremendous loss for the House of Representatives and the state of Indiana. Our thoughts and prayers are with her staff, her family, and the family and loved ones of the staff members, Emma Thomson and Zachery Potts, who also lost their lives today."
Former President Donald Trump posted condolences on his Truth Social page late Wednesday afternoon.
"I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, her aide Emma Thomson, and community leader Zachery Potts," Trump wrote. "Jackie was a wonderful woman and an impassioned advocate for the people of Indiana. We worked together very closely, and I was privileged to know her for many years. May the families and loved ones of Jackie, Emma, and Zachery find comfort during this tragic time. They will be greatly missed!"
Walorski, 58, served as the representative for Indiana's 2nd Congressional District since 2013. The longtime Republican leader also served in the Indiana House of Representatives from 2005-2010, and represented Indiana's 21st District.