Coroner's report confirms death of Indiana Rep., three others, accidental

Officials concluded their investigation into the car accident that killed Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) last month, determining that the car her staff member was driving was responsible for the crash. 

The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office said in a release on Friday that the cause of the accident was that the Toyota RAV4 that staffer Zachery Potts was driving northbound when he veered into the southbound lane while trying to pass a flat-bed truck. The Toyota collided with a Buick traveling southbound as Potts attempted to pass the truck. 

The office also concluded that excessive speed played a role in the accident. Evidence from the reconstruction of the crash showed that the Toyota was traveling at 82 miles per hour about five seconds before the collision occurred. The vehicle was “coasting” and dropped to 77 miles per hour milliseconds before the airbags deployed. 

The crash occurred on Aug. 3 around 12:30 p.m., killing Walorski, Potts and Emma Thomson, Walorski’s communications director. The driver of the Buick, Edith Schmucker, was also killed. 

The Elkhart County coroner ruled that Walorski’s death was accidental and caused by the dislocation of the cervical spine as a result of the accident. Potts, Thomson and Schmucker died from multiple injuries sustained in the crash, the coroner ruled. 

Police changed their initial description of what happened one day after the crash, announcing that the car Walorski was a passenger in crossed the state highway’s centerline and caused the head-on crash. Officials had originally said Schmucker’s car crossed into the Toyota’s path. 

The sheriff’s office release states that airbag control module data shows that Potts steered the Toyota to the left just before the crash. 

Investigators did not find any evidence of cell phones being used prior to the crash after reviewing cell phone information from all occupants of both vehicles. They also did not find any evidence of mechanical failures. 

“All of the evidence and information gathered is consistent with someone attempting to pass another vehicle on a two-lane roadway,” the release states. 

The sheriff’s office consulted with Indiana State Police for an independent review of the evidence, and the police department came to the same conclusions. 

Walorski had represented Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District since 2013 and was running for reelection this year. A special election will be held in November to fill her seat for the remainder of the term simultaneously with a general election to determine who will hold the seat for the next two years.