US & Canada

Obama 'heartbroken' as White House employee killed

Jake Brewer at a conference in London (April 2008) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jake Brewer worked in the office of the chief technology officer at the White House

US President Barack Obama has said he is "heartbroken" after a senior White House employee was killed on a charity bike ride.

Jake Brewer, 34, died while taking part in the 150-mile Ride to Conquer Cancer event on Saturday.

The senior policy advisor in the chief technology office lost control of his bike and was hit by a vehicle.

Mr Obama said: "Jake devoted his life to empowering people and making government work better for them."

He said Mr Brewer had "a brilliant mind, a big heart, and an insatiable desire to give back".

"He worked to give citizens a louder voice in our society. He engaged our striving immigrants. He pushed for more transparency in our democracy. And he sought to expand opportunity for all.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Obama said Jake Brewer had "a big heart and an insatiable desire to give back"

"I've often said that today's younger generation is smarter, more determined, and more capable of making a difference than I was as a young man," Mr Obama's statement said. "Jake was proof of that."

White House Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith described Mr Brewer as "a driven polymath" in addition to being "extraordinarily kind". She has written about the range of his work in a White House blog.

Mr Brewer, from Alexandria, Virginia, reportedly lost control of his bike on a sharp curve in Howard County, Maryland.

Image copyright White House
Image caption Mr Brewer played a key role in the White House's TechHire initiative to enable low wage earners train for a better job

He was described by the New York Times as "a competitive triathlete who rode on Saturday in honour of a friend who had been stricken with cancer".

Earlier in his career Mr Brewer led global policy and external affairs at Change.org, the online petition website.

He also worked on a number of initiatives with the aim of using technology to improve people's lives and was part of the Obama administration's efforts to expand broadband connectivity.

His wife, journalist Mary Katharine Ham - who is pregnant with the couple's second child - posted the news of the death on Instagram.

"I will miss him forever, even more than I can know right now," she wrote.

"I will strive and pray not to feel I was cheated of many years with him, but cherish the gift of the years I had. In a life where nothing is guaranteed, Jake made the absolute, ever-lovin' most of his time with all of us."

The president said he and his wife would be praying for the Brewer family, adding: "They'll always have a family here at the White House."

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