GENEVA — Secretary of State John F. Kerry broke his leg in an early morning bicycling accident near this Swiss city Sunday, and late in the evening decided not to fly home to Boston as originally planned but to stay overnight in a hospital here.
“After further consultation it was sensible for him to remain in the hospital for observation overnight for purely precautionary measures and fly home tomorrow,” spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. Kirby said Kerry was in “great spirits” and had talked to President Obama by phone.
Kerry, 71, broke his right femur near the site of a prior hip-replacement surgery. No one else was involved in the accident, which occurred when Kerry hit a curb with his bicycle while riding through a town in a nearby part of France.
After he had been airlifted by helicopter back to Geneva, plans were made to fly him to Boston later Sunday in a plane specially “outfitted to ensure he remains comfortable and stable,” Kirby had said. But officials eventually scratched that idea.
On Monday, assuming Kerry makes the transatlantic trip, he is to be admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital under the care of the physician who performed the hip surgery.
Kirby said that Kerry did not lose consciousness and that he was attended to by a physician at the scene, in the town of Scionzier, France, just over the Swiss border and about 30 miles from Geneva, before being flown to the University Hospitals of Geneva Medical Center.
Kerry was accompanied by his motorcade and a security detail at the time of the accident.
Local officials told the French news service Agence France-Presse that Kerry was traveling at a slow speed, on flat ground, near the town. It was near the beginning of a route that was to take him through the Alpine pass known as Col de la Colombiere, in the Haute-Savoie department of the French Alps, with an altitude of more than 5,000 feet. An official at the scene described Kerry as calm and “brave.”
Kerry keeps a somewhat hectic travel schedule that usually provides little downtime. When he has the opportunity while on official business overseas, he walks or cycles, often in the early morning.
Kerry had brought his personal bike along for a ride planned well in advance. An avid cyclist, he wanted to ride a small part of the Tour de France and was accompanied by local government officials, according to French media reports.
“The secretary is stable and never lost consciousness,” Kirby said in a statement. “His injury is not life-threatening and he is expected to make a full recovery.”
He described Kerry as being “in good spirits” and said he was “grateful to the French and Swiss authorities, doctors and nurses who assisted him after the accident.”
Kerry arrived late Friday in Geneva for all-day talks Saturday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, after attending the inauguration Friday of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
Kerry had been scheduled to fly later Sunday to Madrid for meetings with his Spanish counterpart and on Monday to Paris for a meeting with U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State militant group before returning to Washington on Wednesday.
Antony Blinken, the deputy secretary of state who holds the number two job, will take Kerry’s place at the meeting in Paris.
“The secretary very much regrets not being able to visit Spain to meet with one of our closest allies for discussions on a range of issues,” Kirby said in the statement, “as well as being unable to attend the counter-ISIL coalition ministerial meeting on Tuesday in Paris in person.” The statement said Kerry would participate “remotely” in the Paris meeting. ISIL is an acronym for the Islamic State.
An extra day had been built into the trip in case it was needed to extend discussions with Zarif on the nuclear agreement being negotiated between Iran and world powers. But the Iranians left Saturday night after meetings that a senior administration official described as “intense.” The deadline for completion of the agreement is June 30.
It is unclear how Kerry’s injury will affect the negotiations. He had cleared his travel schedule for June to be available for high-level talks with Zarif, as needed, to try to push the deal over the finish line.
Reporters traveling with Kerry were informed of the accident, which took place at 9:40 a.m. local time, about 90 minutes after it occurred.
Carol Morello in Washington contributed to this report.