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Authorities in Indiana have released a final report on the investigation into a car crash that killed Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, which states that the vehicle she was riding in, driven by one of her staffers, was “at fault” for the crash.
“Our investigation has determined that the cause of the crash was driving left of center with a contributing factor of excessive speed,” the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release on Friday. “The at-fault vehicle was the Toyota RAV4 driven by Zachery Potts.”
The 58-year-old congresswoman and two of her staffers, 27-year-old Potts and 28-year-old Emma Thomson, were killed last month after the car they were riding in collided with 56-year-old Edith Schmucker on an Indiana highway, killing Schmucker as well.
The final report explained that a witness recounted the Toyota RAV4 being driven by the 27-year-old Potts trailing a flat-bed truck before slowing down in an apparent attempt to create space between the two cars.
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“The Toyota was then observed accelerating to a high rate of speed, closing the distance to the unidentified truck,” the report says. “As the Toyota neared the rear of the truck, it swerved into the southbound lane at which it collided with the southbound Buick driven by Edith Schmucker.”
The report included data from the airbag control module, sometimes referred to as the “black box,” showing that Walorski’s vehicle had been traveling at a speed of 82 miles per hour five seconds before the crash and that the motor had been at “idle speed,” meaning that the vehicle had been “coasting.”
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The speed of the Toyota RAV4 was 77 miles per hour milliseconds before airbag deployment, according to the report.
“The airbag control module data also showed that the driver of the Toyota RAV4 steered the vehicle left just prior to the crash,” the report says. “The amount of steering input was consistent with normal operation of the vehicle and was consistent with the eyewitness account.”
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Authorities also reviewed cell phone data from all individuals involved in the crash and did not find evidence that devices were being used immediately before or during the crash.
Additionally, no signs of mechanical failure were found.
“All of the evidence and information gathered is consistent with someone attempting to pass another vehicle on a two-lane roadway,” the report concluded.
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Tributes from Walorski’s colleagues quickly poured in following news of her death last month, including from fellow Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks, who called the congresswoman a “dear friend and one of the greatest public servants I’ve ever known.”
In late August, the Indiana Republican Party selected businessman Rudy Yakym to replace Walorski on the November ballot to represent Indiana’s Second Congressional District.