Driver in deadly Osaka pedestrian ramming may have had fatal aortic dissection

Kyodo, Staff Report

A driver whose vehicle killed a pedestrian and injured others in one of Osaka’s busiest districts on Thursday may have suffered a fatal aortic dissection just beforehand, the daily Asahi Shimbun quoted investigators as saying on the day.

According to the report, investigative sources received the information from rescuers who brought the driver, 51-year-old company owner Atsushi Ohashi, to a hospital soon after the accident. They said he had symptoms of aortic dissection, which often causes sudden death.

On Thursday, Ohashi’s car drove onto a sidewalk and plowed into pedestrians. The black car was seen hitting several people crossing a street before driving onto the sidewalk in front of a complex of hotels and shops on the north side of JR West Osaka Station in Kita Ward.

According to witnesses, the driver appeared to be unconscious as the car hurtled toward the pedestrians.

Police said Ohashi, who was from the city of Nara, was alone in the car. He did not have external wounds.

Ohashi and a male pedestrian in his 50s were later confirmed dead, while a woman thought to be in her 20s was taken to a hospital showing no signs of life, police said.

Eight other adults sustained a mix of light and severe injuries.

Onlookers were heard screaming as the car drove for about 40 meters along the sidewalk before colliding with a flower bed and coming to a stop. A man was seen trapped in front of the damaged car.

Police said they will perform an autopsy to determine the cause of Ohashi’s death, with witness statements and his lack of external injuries suggesting he may have become incapacitated while driving.

A woman who saw the car pass in front of her as she was crossing the street said the driver appeared to be unconscious at that point.

“The man was slumped over in the driver’s seat and didn’t seem to have his hands on the steering wheel. His arms looked limp,” the 56-year-old flower arrangement instructor said.

Police said they had not found tire marks at the scene to suggest the car braked, while several witnesses said they did not hear brakes screeching.

Police are now looking into the possibility that the car entered the intersection on a red light without slowing down and may have hit a roadside barrier located in front of the intersection that was found to have marks suggesting an impact.

Immediately after the crash, bystanders began to aid several people lying on the road with apparent head injuries, while some witnesses sat on the ground in shock.

Police and firefighters responded about 10 minutes after the crash.