WASHINGTON DC, United States of America (AFP) – US Commerce Secretary John Bryson’s health came under the spotlight Monday, June 11, after he suffered a seizure and crashed his car into two other vehicles, as police said alcohol or drugs were not involved.
The White House said President Barack Obama was “concerned” about Bryson’s health but gave no further reaction on the incidents Saturday in Los Angeles, in which the cabinet member was cited for a hit-and-run.
“Secretary Bryson was involved in a traffic accident in Los Angeles over the weekend. He suffered a seizure,” Commerce Department spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman, adding that he was on “personal time” in California.
“He was taken to the hospital for examination and remained overnight for observation. He was released and has returned to Washington,” Friedman said.
A statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Bryson’s Lexus rear-ended another car Saturday as it waited at a railway crossing in the city of San Gabriel.
According to the statement, Bryson, 68, spoke with three males in the damaged car and then drove away, hitting their Buick again in the process.
He then drove to the city of Rosemead, where he struck a second car, said officials, who said the secretary later was found “alone and unconscious behind the wheel of his vehicle.”
Bryson was treated at the scene by paramedics, and then transported to a local hospital where he received “treatment for non life-threatening injuries,” the sheriff’s department said.
News reports earlier Monday had said that Bryson was under investigation for the charge of felony hit-and-run, but it is unclear whether charges will be pressed if the collisions were found to be due to a medical condition.
“The preliminary investigation at the scene showed no indication of alcohol or drugs,” said LA County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Mike Parker, while officials noted that the crashes resulted in only minor injuries to others.
The Commerce Department said an investigation had been launched, adding that Bryson had no public events scheduled for Monday.
A Commerce official who spoke on background said that at the time of the accidents, Bryson was “on personal time with no security detail,” since he was not on official business.
“He was driving his own vehicle. He was given medication to treat the seizure,” the official said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama had not spoken to Bryson since the incident, but that his chief of staff Jack Lew had done so.
“We are obviously concerned about the incident, concerned about Secretary Bryson’s health related issues,” he said, adding that Bryson had been an “effective” secretary of commerce since his appointment.
He referred further questions to the Commerce Department.
Bryson was confirmed as commerce secretary in October of last year, replacing Gary Locke who was named US ambassador to China.
Prior to taking up his post at the department, he was chairman, chief executive and president of Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison. – Agence France-Presse