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Commerce secretary cited in car accidents had seizure

Posted at 11:41 AM, Jun 11, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-11 11:41:07-04

From Brianna Keilar and Maria P. White

WASHINGTON (CNN) — U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson, who is under investigation for possible felony hit-and-run after allegedly causing two car accidents in California, suffered a seizure, a Commerce Department spokeswoman said Monday.

Bryson was issued a citation at an area hospital after sustaining minor injuries in the Saturday accidents, said Lt. Ariel Duran of the San Gabriel Police Department. Authorities must still decide whether to formally file any charges.

“The investigation is in its preliminary stages. At this point in time, there is no indication that alcohol or drugs played a role in the collisions,” police said in a statement Sunday.

A preliminary alcohol screening of Bryson was negative, Duran said. Results from a blood alcohol test were pending, he said.

“Secretary Bryson was involved in a traffic accident in Los Angeles over the weekend,” said a statement by Commerce Director of Public Affairs Jennifer Friedman. “He suffered a seizure. He was taken to the hospital for examination and remained overnight for observation. He was released and has returned to Washington. The investigation is ongoing.”

According to a Commerce official, Bryson was on personal time with no security detail when the accidents occurred and was driving his own vehicle. The official, who spoke to CNN on condition of not being identified, said Bryson was given medication to treat the seizure.

An administration official, also speaking on condition of not being identified, told CNN the White House was notified about what happened on Sunday night.

The accidents occurred Saturday evening, officials said.

Bryson, who was driving a Lexus, rear-ended a Buick occupied by three men that was stopped at a railroad crossing in San Gabriel, said the police statement Sunday.

“Bryson spoke with the males, then left the scene, hitting the same car again as he left,” the statement said.

The men in the Buick followed Bryson while calling 911 to report the accident, it said.

Bryson then drove to the neighboring city of Rosemead, where he hit a second car, according to authorities.

The commerce secretary was found “alone and unconscious behind the wheel of his vehicle,” according to the police statement.

Paramedics treated him at the scene and took him to an area hospital, Duran said.

Two of the three men in the Buick were treated for minor injuries, according to police.

President Barack Obama nominated Bryson to succeed Gary Locke as commerce secretary in May 2011, citing his experience in clean energy issues.

Following Senate confirmation, he became the 37th secretary of commerce in October.

He served as chairman of the California utility company Edison International from 1990 until 2008. Before that, Bryson was a co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental group.

The group strongly endorsed Locke’s nomination last year.

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