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U.S. senator collapses at Obama inauguration luncheon
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08:00, January 21, 2009

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A U.S. senator has "collapsed" at the luncheon hosted at Congress for the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

The senator was identified as Sen. Ted Kennedy, who sources said appeared to suffer a seizure during the luncheon and was wheeled out of the Capitol on a wheelchair or a stretcher, U.S. media reported.

Earlier before Senator Kennedy's collapse, Senator Robert Byrd was also taken ill and medical staff were called in to look after him, according to CNN.

The luncheon began shortly after Obama was sworn in as the country's 44th president and delivered his inaugural address on the West Front of the Capitol building.

A witness told CNN that after Kennedy was down, the lights in the building went down, as if to reduce the heat in the room. President Obama knew something was happening and "went over there immediately to be helpful."

There were also reports quoting Obama as saying that his prayers are with Senator Kennedy and his family and Vicki, Kennedy's wife.

The 76-year-old Massachusetts Democrat, who attended Obama's swearing-in before the luncheon, has been battling a life-threatening brain tumor. He is the brother of late President John F. Kennedy and one of the Senate's most respected Democrats.

Senator Orrin Hatch said on TV that Kennedy seemed to have suffered a painful seizure, but was conscious when he was put into an ambulance.

Hatch said that he believed "things are going to be all right."

Meanwhile, an aide to Senator Byrd told the press that the Democrat from West Virginia is "fine" after having been removed from the inaugural luncheon for health reasons.

Byrd, 91, is the oldest and longest-serving U.S. senator.

Source: Xinhua

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