Fact Check

Pokemon Go Caused a Fatal Crash in Knoxville?

A man was tragically killed in a wrong way crash near Knoxville, but police say there's no indication Pokemon Go was involved in the accident.

Published Jul 22, 2016

A Knoxville man was killed in a fiery collision caused by a wrong-way driver playing Pokemon Go.
What's True

Truck driver Carroll Trent was killed on Interstate 40 near downtown Knoxville on 20 July 2016 in a wrong way collision.

What's False

Authorities say there's no indication Pokemon Go was a factor in the deadly crash and stated that consecutive news segments about the accident and the game likely confused viewers.

On 21 July 2016, Facebook user Rachel Trent published the information reproduced above to Facebook, requesting that friends and acquaintances please refrain from exposing her to content regarding Pokemon Go because her father had been tragically killed in a wrong-way collision near Knoxville, Tennessee, involving a driver playing the augmented reality game:

It wasn't difficult to establish that sadly, Trent's father was killed in a crash by a fellow driver going the wrong way on Interstate 40:

The fiery head-on collision that killed two people on Interstate 40 near downtown Knoxville marks the fifth fatal crash involving a wrong-way driver along the same 4-mile stretch since March 2013, police records show.

The latest was reported shortly after 1 a.m. when 21-year-old Maryville College graduate Anthony Swartz drove west into the eastbound lanes and struck an oncoming tractor-trailer at mile marker 387 just west of the Interstate 275 interchange, according to the Knoxville Police Department.

The crash killed Swartz and truck driver Carroll Trent, 67, of Evington, Va. The impact ignited more than 800 pounds of benzoquinone, a flammable hazardous material Trent was hauling from Nashville to Virginia, destroying the truck and its tandem trailers.

However, the portion about Pokemon Go being a factor in the accident is in dispute. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, authorities were still investigating the causes of the crash at the time of Rachel Trent's post:

No obvious signs of alcohol or drug use were found in the wreckage of Swartz's SUV, [Knoxville Police Department spokesman Darrell] DeBusk said.

"We're still trying to determine the events leading up to the crash — where he had been, who he was with," DeBusk said.

Toxicology tests have been requested, although it likely will be several weeks or months before the results are available.

The density of interchanges along that stretch of I-40 is another possible factor common among the crashes, as the numerous exits and on-ramps offer more opportunities for an impaired or confused driver to head the wrong way onto the interstate, DeBusk said.

Knox County E-911 received a reported sighting of Swartz's white SUV heading west onto I-40 East from James White Parkway less than a minute before the crash.

The newspaper additionally reported there was no indication the Pokemon Go game had caused Swartz to be driving on the wrong side of the interstate:

Authorities also have no indication a video game was a contributing factor in the crash.

Trent's daughter claimed in a Facebook post that Swartz was playing Pokemon Go on his mobile phone while driving.

DeBusk, who said he was inundated with calls from local and national media seeking a response to the daughter's claim, speculated the confusion might have been caused by a News Sentinel video interview with DeBusk posted online. The video was immediately followed by a separate, unrelated news clip about a driver in Baltimore who struck a parked police cruiser while playing Pokemon.

Police have yet to find any link between the crash and Pokemon Go, and the stretch of interstate in question has been the site of a number of wrong way crashes in recent years. Had investigators deemed Swartz to be playing Pokemon Go at the time of the crash, there's no reason to believe they would not inform the public and issue an attendant warning. But police cited the "density of interchanges along that stretch of I-40" as a "possible factor common among the crashes ... [as] numerous exits and on-ramps offer more opportunities for an impaired or confused driver " to begin heading the wrong way on the interstate late at night. 


Hickman, Hayes.   "I-40 Wrong-Way Crash Was Fifth Fatal Head-On Collision in the Area in Three Years."     Knoxville News Sentinel.   21 July 2016.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

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