[NOTE: Due to being offline all day, this is being dated late.]
There’s now an explanation for why Commerce Secretary John Bryson got into several accidents in California, in one of the more bizarre stories of the year involving a political figure: he apparently had a seizure:
It began Saturday afternoon at a railroad crossing in a run-down commercial neighborhood in suburban San Gabriel, on a street bustling with signs in Chinese characters. A man in a Lexus rolled into the back of a Buick waiting for a train to pass. Two miles and five minutes later, the Lexus smacked into the rear of yet another car, in neighboring Rosemead.
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office found the driver passed out at the wheel and took him to the hospital for observation. He was cited for a hit-and-run.
The driver was John E. Bryson, the commerce secretary, one of the lower-profile members of President Obama’s cabinet but a well-known figure in California energy and business circles. The episode set off a squall of speculation and questions from here to the White House about what had happened in the San Gabriel Valley, as Mr. Bryson returned to work as usual Monday at his office in Washington and made no public appearances or statements as of late afternoon.
The White House said Mr. Bryson had suffered a seizure. But officials there and at the Commerce Department declined to offer details on Mr. Bryson’s medical history, including what might have caused the seizure, and took pains to say they were not saying the seizure caused the episode. They said that this was the first such seizure he had suffered.
“The commerce secretary was alone,” said Jay Carney, the White House spokesman. “He had a seizure. He was involved in an accident.”
White House officials said Mr. Bryson had told them that he did not recall the events leading to the episode.
Mr. Bryson passed a breathalyzer test at the scene and submitted to a blood toxicology test, said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office. He said that if the report came back negative, Mr. Bryson would not be charged.
There were no significant injuries, or heavy vehicular damage, in the accidents, which took place shortly past 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Our original post:
Commerce Secretary John Bryson is being investigated in a California hit-and-run case and authorities reportedly say he was not booked into jail because he has been hospitalized due to injuries sustained in one of the collisions with two vehicles which he allegedly caused:
Authorities are investigating a series of traffic collisions in the San Gabriel Valley involving U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson, authorities said Saturday.
Bryson was found unconscious in his vehicle and has been hospitalized, officials said.
Bryson was driving a Lexus in the 400 block of South San Gabriel Boulevard shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday, when he allegedly rear-ended a Buick as it was waiting for a train to pass, according to a statement released by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and the San Gabriel Police Department.
After briefly stopping to talk to the three men inside the Buick, Bryson left the location in the Lexus and then struck the Buick a second time, authorities said. The men followed Bryson’s car and called 911 to ask for police assistance.
Bryson continued to drive his Lexus into Rosemead, which is patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. There, he allegedly crashed into a second vehicle near the intersection of San Gabriel Boulevard and Hellman Avenue.
There authorities found him alone and unconscious behind the wheel of his car.
Bryson was treated at the scene by Los Angeles County firefighters. Authorities said drugs or alcohol do not appear to have played a role in the crash. They said Bryson was cooperative. He was cited for felony hit and run but was not booked into jail because he had been admitted to the hospital. His condition was not known.
In the first incident, Bryson was driving alone in a Lexus in San Gabriel when he allegedly struck the rear end of a vehicle occupied by three males that had been stopped for a passing train.
Bryson spoke with the occupants and then hit their car again as he departed, officials said. The trio followed him while calling police.
“The preliminary investigation indicates the collision was caused by suspect John Bryson, who is the United States Secretary of Commerce,” the police statement said.
Bryson then allegedly caused a second collision minutes later in the nearby city of Rosemead, striking a car occupied by a man and a woman, the police agencies said.
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.
Bryson, the former chairman and CEO of public utility company Edison International, was appointed 37th Secretary of Commerce in 2011, according to his official biography.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.