Bryson investigated for crashes


US secretary of commerce John Bryson is being investigated for several hit-and-run car crashes in southern California on Saturday that police say appear to have been caused by the Obama administration official.

The San Gabriel Police Department, in a statement released early today, said a preliminary investigation indicates Mr Bryson caused the first crash when his Lexus rear-ended a Buick in San Gabriel on Saturday at about 5.05pm. He allegedly hit it again when leaving the scene.

The second crash took place about five minutes later in nearby Rosemead, California, when Mr Bryson allegedly hit a Honda Accord, according to the statement, which was issued along with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Mr Bryson was found unconscious behind the wheel at the scene of the second crash, police said. Paramedics treated him at the crash site and he was admitted to a local hospital for non-lethal injuries, police said. Passengers in the other cars had no major injuries.

Police said so far "there is no indication that alcohol or drugs played a role in the collisions". They added that Mr Bryson and others were co-operative with the investigation.

The White House said it was concerned about the crashes and about "health-related issues" that played a role in the incident.

"We're still in the process of gathering information on it," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

Asked whether President Barack Obama was aware that Mr Bryson had a medical condition when he nominated him last year, Mr Carney said: "The president nominated Secretary Bryson to serve because he felt he was capable of doing the job, and he has been an effective secretary since he was confirmed."

He said White House chief of staff Jack Lew had spoken to Mr Bryson today but that Mr Obama had not.

According to CNN, the Commerce Department has acknowledged that Mr Bryson was involved in a car crash. He has been discharged from the hospital, the television network said, citing a department spokeswoman.

A former utility executive, Mr Bryson has served as Mr Obama's secretary of commerce since October 2011, according to the department's website that also touts him as a key member of the president's economic team.