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Driver in deadly Osaka pedestrian ramming may have had fatal heart issue

Kyodo

Osaka police are investigating whether a medical issue incapacitated the driver of a car that mowed down people on a sidewalk in the city the previous day, killing himself, a pedestrian and injuring eight others, a source close to the investigation said Friday.

The driver, 51-year-old Atsushi Ohashi, was confirmed dead after the incident, which occurred in front of a complex of hotels and shops on the north side of JR Osaka Station around midday Thursday.

The incident claimed a man in his 50s, and a 28-year-old woman remains in critical condition. Eight other adults received light to severe injuries.

Police are investigating whether heart failure or some other physical ailment suddenly caused Ohashi to lose consciousness, the sources said.

Staff at the facility management company Ohashi ran in Nara Prefecture said he had not disclosed any ongoing medical conditions and appeared normal at a meeting Thursday morning before departing on business in a company-owned car.

An account on microblogging website Twitter thought to belong to Ohashi was regularly updated with the user’s location through a smartphone application until shortly before the time of the crash.

Around midday Thursday, the account shows the user traveling along parts of the Hanshin Expressway network linking Osaka before getting off at the Umeda exit a few hundred meters from the crash site.

Police intend to examine security camera footage and highway records to confirm Ohashi’s whereabouts before the crash.

Flowers and other offerings had piled up late Friday at the crash site in front of a flower bed that brought the car to a stop.

In addition to JR Osaka Station, there are several other train and subway stations in the surrounding area, filling it with people on the move at all hours of the day.