Polish PM flown to Warsaw hospital after car crash

By Marcin Goclowski

By Marcin Goclowski

WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo was hurt when her car struck a tree in a crash in southern Poland on Friday, and she was flown by helicopter to a Warsaw hospital as a row broke out over security surrounding top government figures.

"The PM's condition is good, PM will undergo additional routine checks in hospital in Warsaw," her spokesman Rafal Bochenek tweeted.

"She had her seatbelt fastened. She suffered mainly bruises and abrasions," he later told private broadcaster TVN24.

Szydlo, 53, was first taken to a hospital in her hometown of Oswiecim, where the incident happened. Television pictures then showed her being carried aboard a helicopter, lying completely still on a stretcher and wearing a neck brace, to be flown 170 miles (275 km) to the capital.

Szydlo took office in late 2015 as head of the right-wing Law and Justice party government. The deputy director of the Oswiecim hospital said she was in pain but not in any danger, and had been consulted over the decision to fly her out.

A police spokesman said her driver, who swerved off the road when another vehicle collided with him, had broken a leg and his pelvis. Police said it was definitely an accident, and a government source said nothing pointed to any kind of attack.

However, the incident raised security concerns given that Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz was involved in a similar accident last month and President Andrzej Duda had a minor car bump last year. Both escaped injury.

"This is a clue for a potential attacker that it is possible to ram the prime minister's car," former prime minister Leszek Miller told private TV Polsat News.

The interior minister called an urgent meeting with the heads of the Government Protection Bureau which is responsible for ministers' security.

"The Government Protection Bureau is expected to predict such situations," said Roman Polko, former head of Polish special forces. "This was a very serious accident, I'm very much concerned that it is being played down."

Julia Pitera of opposition party Civic Platform told broadcaster TVP Info: "It's frightening to live in a country where, within 11 months, the president, prime minister and defence minister are involved in car accidents."

A police spokesman in Oswiecim, best known as the site of the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, said the accident happened on Friday evening when the prime minister was travelling in a convoy of cars overtaking a private Fiat Seicento.

"Suddenly the Seicento turned left, crashing into the prime minister's car," the spokesman told a televised news conference. Police were investigating under the supervision of a prosecutor.

TV pictures showed serious damage to the front of Szydlo's Audi A8 vehicle. It was not clear what happened to the other driver, who police said was a 21-year-old man who was sober at the time of the incident.

(Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)