US & Canada

Seizure cited over US commerce boss car crashes

John Bryson, file pic
Image caption John Bryson became commerce secretary in October last year

A US cabinet member involved in three car crashes in California suffered a seizure, a spokeswoman has said.

Secretary of Commerce John Bryson allegedly hit one car twice and was found unconscious at the wheel after a third collision, before being treated.

Police are describing one incident as a hit-and-run and suspect him of causing all the crashes. However, no charges have been brought against Mr Bryson.

Police said there was no initial indication of alcohol or drug use.

"Secretary Bryson was involved in a traffic accident in Los Angeles over the weekend. He suffered a seizure," Department of Commerce spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman said in a statement.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff had spoken to Mr Bryson and was gathering information about what happened.

"We're obviously concerned about the incident, about the health-related issues that played a role in this incident," Mr Carney said.

President Barack Obama had not met the secretary, Mr Carney said.

Mr Bryson, an ex-Edison International chairman, took office last October. He replaced Gary Locke, who was named US ambassador to China.

'Medical condition'

A media release from San Gabriel police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said initial investigations showed the first crash was caused by Mr Bryson, 68.

It said his Lexus struck a Buick that was waiting for a train to pass in the city of San Gabriel.

Mr Bryson spoke to the three male occupants then left the scene, apparently hitting the car again as he did so, the media release said.

The Buick then followed Mr Bryson's Lexus and the occupants called for police assistance.

Mr Bryson was then involved in a collision with a Honda a few minutes later as he crossed into the nearby city of Rosemead, where he was found alone and unconscious behind the wheel.

He was alleged to have caused that crash as well, but investigations are at a preliminary stage, police said.

There were no serious injuries to the passengers in the Buick or the Honda, and Mr Bryson was treated for non-life-threatening injuries, remaining in hospital overnight on Saturday.

He has now returned to Washington, the commerce department said on Monday.

Mr Bryson's Lexus and the Honda suffered minor damage, police said.

They said all parties involved had been co-operative.

LA County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Pope told local radio that authorities understood that Mr Bryson had a "pre-existing medical condition".

Mr Bryson helped develop Edison International into a leading solar and wind power firm, and was confirmed as commerce secretary despite some conservative objections to his pro-environmental connections.

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