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GOP Rep. Jackie Walorski dies in car accident in Indiana

CORRECTION: Walorski’s vehicle was traveling northbound when it collided with another vehicle. A previous version of this story included incorrect information published by the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office, which it has since corrected.

Rep. Jackie Walorski, a Republican representing Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District, died in a car accident on Wednesday.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) confirmed the news in a statement from Walorski’s office announcing the congresswoman’s death.

“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,” the statement reads.

The accident, a two-vehicle crash, occurred in Indiana at around 12:30 p.m., according to the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities said a Toyota RAV 4 traveling northbound crossed the centerline for unknown reasons and collided with a Buick LeSabre driving southbound.

Walorski, 58, was in the Toyota RAV 4 traveling northbound with two of her aides, Zachery Potts, 27, and Emma Thomson, 28, both of whom also died, according to the sheriff’s office.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) confirmed in a statement that two of Walorski’s staffers died in the car accident.

“I am devastated and saddened to learn about the tragic passing of my dear friend Jackie Walorski and two of her staffers,” Scalise said.

The occupant in the vehicle traveling northbound was pronounced dead at the scene, according to authorities. The Elkhart County Coroner’s Office and the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the incident.

Walorski was first elected to Congress in 2012 after winning the seat vacated by former Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who went on to win a Senate seat. At the time of her death, Walorski was the ranking member of the House Ethics Committee and the top Republican on the Subcommittee on Worker and Family Support

Prior to her time in Congress, Walorski served in the Indiana House of Representatives for roughly five years.

Before entering the political world, Walorski and her husband were missionaries in Romania for four years, according to her congressional biography. The two of them established a foundation that supplied food and medical goods to children in poverty.

The congresswoman also spent time as a television news reporter in South Bend, Indiana.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ordered the flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff following news of Walorski’s death, according to her chief of staff.

Lawmakers and political figures from both sides of the aisle expressed sadness following the news of Walorski’s death on Wednesday.

“We may have represented different parties and disagreed on many issues,” President Biden said in a statement, “but she was respected by members of both parties for her work on the House Ways and Means Committee on which she served.”

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) called the congresswoman “one of the greatest public servants I’ve ever known.”

“My heart is broken for Dean, the Walorski family, and all who knew and loved my friend Jackie,” Banks said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“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,” he added.

The congressman said Walorski “had a heart to gold, and I will miss her dearly.”

Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), another member of the Indiana congressional delegation, said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the death of his “dear friend and trusted mentor.”

“Denise and I, and our whole team are deeply saddened to hear the tragic news of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski’s passing,” Pence wrote in a statement posted on Twitter.

“She was a dear friend and trusted mentor who always had serving Hoosiers at the top of her mind. She worked tirelessly on behalf of the community she loved, and words cannot describe what a tremendous loss this is for the State of Indiana and our Nation,” he added.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg — who previously served as the mayor of South Bend, the town where Walorski was born and raised — said he was “shocked and saddened” to learn of the congresswoman’s “tragic death.”

“Though we came from very different places politically, she was always prepared to work together where there was common ground, always decent and straightforward, and she cared deeply about her work and her constituents,” he added in a statement on Twitter.

Joseph Choi contributed.

Updated 8:24 p.m.

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