Indiana Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski dies in car crash that also killed 2 employees

By Melanie Zanona and Clare Foran, CNN

Indiana Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski was killed in a car crash that also killed two of Walorski’s staff, House Republican leaders announced Wednesday.

The news sent shock waves through the Capitol and immediately sparked an outpouring of grief and remembrance from lawmakers and aides who paid tribute to the lives and careers of the congresswoman and the two staffers.

Walorski, who was 58, represented Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District and previously served as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives. He began serving in Congress in 2013.

The congresswoman was seen within the House Republican conference as someone who could one day rise through the ranks of Republican leadership, and her name had been mooted for the position of conference chair in the past. She had been a member of the House Republican Party’s deputy whip team.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced Walorski’s death.

“Dean Swihart, Jackie’s husband, has just been informed by the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office that Jackie was killed in a car accident this afternoon. He has returned home to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please keep his family in his thoughts and prayers. We will have no further comment at this time,” read a message from the congresswoman’s office that McCarthy tweeted.

A statement issued by the congresswoman’s office said two employees had also died. “In addition to the devastating loss of Congresswoman Walorski, it is with a broken heart that I announce the passing of two dedicated members of her staff, Zach Potts and Emma Thomson. They were the epitome of public servants who cared deeply about the work they did,” said the statement from Tim Cummings, the congresswoman’s chief of staff.

McCarthy called the congresswoman’s death “absolutely devastating” in a lengthy statement released later Wednesday. “Jackie was a dear friend, a trusted advisor and the embodiment of integrity who commanded the admiration and respect of all of her colleagues in the House,” she said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ordered flags on Capitol Hill to fly at half-staff in response to the congresswoman’s death, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill announced Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement, Pelosi said the congresswoman “lived a life of service” and “was admired by colleagues on both sides of the aisle for her personal kindness.”

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said in a statement that Walorski “was a champion for the people of Indiana, and will be remembered for her kindness, tenacity and commitment to helping others.”

The congresswoman served as the top Republican on the House Ethics Committee, a position that puts her in line to become chair of the panel if the GOP regains its House majority in the upcoming midterm elections. She also served as the ranking Republican member on a subcommittee of the powerful House Ways and Means committee.

Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming tweeted in reaction to the news, “There was no more dedicated or effective member of Congress than Jackie,” adding, “I was proud to be her friend.”

Walorski died in a car accident, according to a statement from the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office.

“A northbound passenger car traveled left of center and collided head-on with the southbound sport utility vehicle,” the statement said.

All three occupants of the southbound vehicle died as a result of their injuries, according to the release.

This story has been updated with additional developments on Wednesday.

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CNN’s Amy Simonson contributed to this report.