Woman hit by truck in Japan's first Pokemon Go death

A man uses a mobile phone in front of an advertisement board bearing the image of Pokemon Go at an electronic shop in Tokyo, Japan, on July 27.
A man uses a mobile phone in front of an advertisement board bearing the image of Pokemon Go at an electronic shop in Tokyo, Japan, on July 27. PHOTO: REUTERS

A woman died and another was severely injured when they were knocked down by a driver who was playing Pokemon Go, Japan's National Police Agency said yesterday.

This is the first death reported in Japan that is related to the wildly popular mobile game, the agency added. It is also possibly the world's first fatal traffic accident caused by the game, although there have been reports elsewhere of people drowning in rivers, falling off cliffs and being shot dead for trespassing while searching for the creatures.

The accident occurred on Tuesday at about 7.25pm in Katanokamicho town in Tokushima prefecture in western Japan.

The two women were walking across a zebra crossing when they were knocked down by a small truck. Hairdresser Yukiko Nakanishi, 72, died, while part-time worker Kayoko Igawa, 60, was hospitalised for a broken hip, among other injuries.

The suspect, 39-year-old farmer Keiji Goou, was arrested for causing death and injury as a result of being distracted while driving, the agency said. He was said to have been driving at 50kmh on a single-lane road when the women were hit.

He initially told police officers that he was checking the time on his smartphone, before changing his tune and saying: "I did not have clear sight of the road because I was playing Pokemon Go."

In the game, players can hunt, capture, battle and train virtual creatures called Pokemon, which appear on the screen as if they were in the same real world location as the players.

The authorities worldwide have issued numerous warnings, urging players to be vigilant.

There have been 79 traffic accidents across Japan since the app was launched last month, police said, while more than 1,000 traffic infractions involving Pokemon Go players have been recorded.

In Singapore, police have boosted patrols in Hougang, where scores of players have congregated to play the game. Two men have also been arrested for coming to blows outside Plaza Singapura over the game. A driver had honked at a pedestrian engrossed in the game, sparking an argument that led to the fight.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2016, with the headline 'Woman hit by truck in Japan's first Pokemon Go death'. Print Edition | Subscribe