WASHINGTON – Commerce Secretary John Bryson suffered a seizure in connection with two traffic accidents in the Los Angeles area that left him injured and unconscious, the government said Monday.
The Commerce Department said Bryson was taken to the hospital for examination and remained overnight for observation. He was released and returned to Washington, spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman said. The department says an investigation is ongoing.
A Commerce Department official said Bryson was on personal time and did not have any security detail at the time of the accidents. He was driving his own vehicle and was given medication to treat the seizure. Bryson was cited for a felony hit-and-run tied to two Los Angeles-area traffic crashes on Saturday, although he has not been formally charged.
White House chief of staff Jack Lew spoke to Bryson on Monday, press secretary Jay Carney said. Carney said the administration was still in the process of gathering information about the incidents.
"We're obviously concerned about the incident, about the health-related issues that played a role in this incident," Carney said. The spokesman said that Bryson had been an "effective" Commerce secretary.
Carney said the White House was informed of the incident Sunday evening and the president was told about it on Monday morning. Many questions remained unanswered, however, including whether the seizure caused either accident. The White House referred all questions about the case to the Commerce Department.
Bryson, 68, is a former utility executive who was sworn in to lead 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.
The Cabinet secretary was the commencement speaker Thursday at Polytechnic School in Pasadena, a college-preparatory school that his four daughters attended.
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.