Yesterday afternoon, Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.-2nd) died tragically in a head-on collision on a two-lane road in Elkhart County, Indiana. Two key members of her staff, who were in her car, also died.
Death of Walorski – what we know
The collision happened at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. (The Eastern and Central Time Zones split Indiana between them.) The congresswoman, Communications Director Emma Thompson, and St. Joseph County Republican Chairman Zachery Potts, were traveling southbound on State Road 19 in a sport-utility vehicle. A 56-year-old woman (Edith Schmucker), driving northbound on SR 19, veered across the center line and struck their car head-on. First responders pronounced Ms. Schmucker dead at the scene, and sent Walorski, Thompson, and Potts to a local hospital. All three died of their injuries.
In fact the reportage on this incident is inconsistent. The radio station, for example, switched the directions of the two cars. The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office straightened that out in their press release. The South Bend Tribune also reported some confusion about the circumstances of the crash:
Indianapolis TV station Fox59 reported Wednesday night that the department had retracted that statement and said the initial information may have been incorrect. The Tribune was unable to verify with the department Wednesday night whether the statement had been retracted.
The Elkhart County Sheriff’s and Coroner’s Offices are still investigating.
How deadly are accidents of this kind?
Head-on collisions are the deadliest of all accidents that typically happen on highways with only center lines to divide them. But that does not make them uniformly fatal. A study of head-on collisions on Maine roads in 2000-2002 produced these results:
3136 head-on crashes [were] reported. Out of these, 127 were fatal crashes and 235 produced incapacitating but not fatal injuries.
Such collisions happen usually because one car veers across the line into oncoming traffic. (That’s why we rarely hear of head-ons on superhighways, with their broad medians or concrete K-rails.) Either one or both drivers are driving too fast, or the veering driver lets his attention wander. In fact this was a classic scenario in the 1960s “Watch Out For The Other Guy” public-service announcement campaign.
Here’s Bob Watson – nice guy, with a nice family, and a nice business to support that family. Today his mind is on that business, not on his driving. So [cue two horn blares and a screech of brakes] you get the business from Bob.
This as “Bob Watson’s” car veers across a double solid center line. An even shorter version, involving a car trying to pass another and hitting an oncoming car, has this voice-over narration:
Guess who Sid and Gladys ran into last weekend? Hank and Marilyn.
So yes, accidents happen. We’ve all known that for years. But suppose something else was going on? What sort of things should the sheriff or coroner look for?
Variations on the scenario – or opportunities
First, what were the conditions of the two cars? Did anyone tamper with the Walorski car – or modify the Schmucker car?
Did Edith Schmucker die in the crash – or shortly before it? Might she have had a heart attack at the wheel? CNAV advises the coroner to ask for her medical record – and to look for causes of “Sudden Adult Death Syndrome.”
Motives against Walorski
Who would have a motive to kill Jackie Walorski deliberately? The search engines show no record of any death threats against her. But other Republicans have received death threats – and some have survived attempts to kill them.
Her most sensitive committee assignment was as ranking member of the House Ethics Committee. That Committee did have several investigations pending. The Ethics Committee is a place for those who build reputations for working with members of the opposite Party. It is not a place for hyper-partisan Members, like the Judiciary Committee.
Given how long before Midterms this incident happened, Indiana law requires a special election to fill the vacancy. The two State Party committees, rather than holding primaries, will hand-pick the candidates for that special election. But the Republican committee must also select another candidate to run for the full term. The two elections will almost certainly coincide.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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