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Driver in Japan Playing Pokemon Go Kills Pedestrian

Jonathan Soble
People play Nintendo Co.'s Pokemon Go in the Akihabara district of Tokyo, Japan.
Noriko Hayashi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In the first reported death in Japan linked to the Pokemon Go craze, a man who was playing the popular smartphone game while driving struck two pedestrians, killing one, the police said on Thursday.

Nintendo and Niantic, the companies behind the game, expressed condolences to the families of the victims.

Pokemon Go uses what is known as augmented reality technology, which puts images of digital monsters in real-world environments for players to hunt with a flick of their fingers. Distracted Pokemon Go players around the world have been involved in numerous mishaps, including less serious car crashes and falls.

More from the New York Times:
Pokémon Go, With a Corporate Tie-in,Debuts in Japan
Nations of the World Confront thePokémon Menace
Pokémon Go Brings Augmented Realityto a Mass Audience

In the United States, several people were reported to have been attacked or robbed while playing the game, though the connection between the violence and the fact that the victims were using Pokemon Go at the time has not always been clear.

The death in Japan occurred Tuesday evening in rural Tokushima Prefecture, on the island of Shikoku in the south of the country.

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The police in Tokushima said they had arrested the driver, Keiji Go'o, a 39-year-old farmer who they said was behind the wheel of a small cargo van when he struck the two pedestrians — Sachiko Nakanishi, 72, and Kayoko Ikawa, 60 — at an intersection.

Ms. Nakanishi died of a broken neck, the police said; the extent of Ms. Ikawa's injuries was not disclosed. Mr. Go'o remained in custody on Thursday, but the police said he had admitted being distracted by the game when the accident occurred. Photographs and video taken by the Japanese news media showed what they said was the van driven by Mr. Go'o, with a smashed windshield.

Niantic, a spinoff of Google that is responsible for the design of Pokemon Go, has added in-game warnings against playing while driving or in other potentially dangerous situations, and a spokesman said the company prioritized safety. Nintendo, which is based in Japan and owns part of the company that manages the Pokemon franchise, said it was working to "create an environment where people can play the game safely."

More than 10 million people in Japan downloaded the game on the day it debuted here last month, after a similarly huge reception in the United States and elsewhere. Distraction on the roads is not the only potential danger; some train stations have begun broadcasting warnings against playing while walking along crowded platforms.

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