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John Bryson traffic crashes: Commerce department says secretary suffered seizure

In this May 31, 2011 file photo, Commerce Secretary-nominee John Bryson is seen in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington.
In this May 31, 2011 file photo, Commerce Secretary-nominee John Bryson is seen in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington.
Carolyn Kaster/AP

U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson suffered a seizure in connection with two Los Angeles-area traffic crashes that led to a felony hit-and-run citation over the weekend, officials said Monday.

Bryson, 68, was treated at a hospital following the crashes around 5 p.m. Saturday, authorities said.

A Commerce Department official said Bryson had "limited recall of the events," and was on personal time without any security detail at the time of the accidents. He was driving his own vehicle and was given medication to treat the seizure.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday, "We're obviously concerned about the incident, concerned about Secretary Bryson's health-related issues that played a role in this incident, and we're still gathering information about it."

Bryson was driving alone in a Lexus on a major street in San Gabriel when he struck the rear end of a vehicle that had been stopped for a passing train, authorities said. The secretary spoke briefly with the occupants and then hit their car again as he departed, the officials said.

The three occupants followed Bryson while calling police. Bryson was cited for the hit-and-run, although he has not been formally charged.

Bryson then caused a second collision minutes later in the nearby city of Rosemead, striking a car occupied by a man and a woman, authorities said. Bryson was found alone and unconscious in his car.

He was treated at the scene before being taken to a hospital.

There was no immediate indication that alcohol or drugs played a role in the collisions, authorities said. San Gabriel police spokesman Lt. Ariel Duran said authorities don't know if Bryson had a prior medical condition.

Bryson, who was released from the hospital, returned to Washington, Commerce Department spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman said.

On Thursday, Bryson gave the commencement address at Pasadena Polytechnic School, where several of his daughters went to school, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported.

Two people in the first collision were treated by paramedics after complaining of pain, the officials said. The couple involved in the second crash also complained of pain but declined medical aid.

Damage to the vehicles was minor.

Obama swore in the former utility executive as the head the Commerce Department in October, after easily overcoming conservatives' objections that his pro-environmental views made him unsuited for the job.

As secretary, Bryson has played a role as a member of the president's economic team and has worked to promote job creation. He has also advised on energy issues, particularly in the clean energy sector.

Bryson is the former head of Edison International, the holding company that owns Southern California Edison. Bryson has also served on boards of major corporations, including the Boeing Co. and the Walt Disney Co.

He helped oversee Edison's transformation into a leading wind and solar company and launched a plan to turn 65 million square feet of unused commercial rooftops into solar power stations with enough electricity for more than 160,000 homes.

San Gabriel, home of a historic 18th century Spanish mission that gave the city its name, is a 4-square-mile community of about 40,000 just northeast of Los Angeles.

On its northern border is the wealthy city of San Marino, where Bryson has a home.

This story has been updated.