The US Commerce Secretary, John Bryson, cited for a hit-and-run offence over the weekend, had in fact suffered a "seizure" around the time he was involved in a series of mysterious road accidents in Los Angeles.
Police issued Bryson with a citation for "felony hit and run" after his Lexus collided with two vehicles in quick succession on Saturday afternoon. He was found unconscious and alone in his car at the scene of the second accident and taken to hospital.
The authorities told reporters Mr Bryson, 68, who has headed President Obama's Commerce Department since October, was co-operative, and stressed that neither drugs nor alcohol were believed to have been a factor in the collisions.
"Secretary Bryson suffered a seizure," said a statement from the Commerce Department. "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."
Witnesses reported that Bryson drove into the rear of a Buick at a level crossing just outside Rosemead at around 5pm. He briefly stopped to speak with the three men inside the car, asking if they wished to exchange insurance details, and then drove away, sideswiping their vehicle a second time in the process.
The driver of the Buick called the police and reported that Mr Bryson had been "acting strangely". He then followed his Lexus into Rosemead where it struck a second car at an intersection. When police arrived at the scene, he was unconscious. He was admitted to hospital, where the Commerce Secretary was given medication and kept for observation.
Police stressed that their investigation into the incidents is "in its preliminary stages". Mr Bryson was not arrested because he had been taken to hospital, police added. The District Attorney will decide whether he should face charges.
Mr Bryson is the former chairman of the Edison International utility conglomerate which supplies Southern California with its electricity.
He now lives in Washington but was in Los Angeles to address a local school which his daughters had both attended.
Because Mr Bryson was on private business, he was not accompanied by security officers.
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