ELKHART — The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office has released its final findings about the crash that killed U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, two of her staffers, and Nappanee resident Edith Schmucker.
“All of the evidence and information gathered is consistent with someone attempting to pass another vehicle on a two-lane roadway,” the release reads.
The crash took place Aug. 3 on Indiana 19, south of County Road 44 in Elkhart County.
“Our investigation has determined that the cause of the crash was driving left of center with a contributing factor of excessive speed,” the statement reads. “The at-fault vehicle was the Toyota RAV4 driven by Zachery Potts.”
The third person killed in Walorski’s vehicle was Emma Thomson, 28, of Washington, D.C.
The sheriff’s office said staffers consulted with the Indiana State Police for an independent review of the collected information and conclusions prior to making the release and said the conclusions from ISP were consistent with those of the sheriff’s office.
Here are the final conclusions:
Investigators said the Toyota RAV4 was northbound on Ind. 19, south of County Road 44, traveling behind a flatbed truck. The witness was traveling northbound behind both the Toyota RAV4 and the unidentified truck. The Toyota was observed slowing, as what was described as creating distance between the truck and the Toyota. The Toyota was then observed accelerating to a high rate of speed, closing the distance to the unidentified truck. As the Toyota neared the rear of the truck, it swerved into the southbound lane, where it collided with the southbound Buick driven by Schmucker.
According to the statement, “Evidence from the crash reconstruction, including detailed data from the airbag control module (often referred to as the “black box”), showed that the Toyota was traveling at a speed of 82 MPH, (+/-) 4%, approximately five seconds prior to the crash. In addition, it showed that the vehicle’s motor was at idle speed, showing that the vehicle was “coasting,” with speed reducing to 77 MPH, (+/-) 4%, milliseconds prior to airbag deployment.
“The airbag control module data also showed that the driver of the Toyota RAV4 steered the vehicle left just prior to the crash. The amount of steering input was consistent with normal operation of the vehicle and was consistent with the eyewitness account.”
Cell phone information was examined from all occupants of both vehicles, investigators reported, adding that there was no evidence or information that phones were being used prior to or during the crash.
Inspections of the vehicles were conducted, according to the report. The inspections and evidence at the scene showed no indication of mechanical failures.
Elkhart County Coroner Mervin Miller also released his findings.
Thomson, Potts and Schmucker’s causes of death were listed as multiple injuries due to automobile striking automobile.
Walorski’s cause of death was dislocation of the cervical spine due to automobile striking automobile.