NEWS 2000

09/25/00- Updated 10:33 AM ET

King regrets death of driver who hit him
By Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY

Author Stephen King says he's "stunned and sorry" to hear of the death of the man who was driving the van that struck King last year while he was walking alongside a Maine road, nearly killing him.

Bryan Edwin Smith, 43, was found dead in bed Friday night at his mobile home in Fryeburg, Maine.

Police said there was no sign of trauma or violence. "He was on a variety of medications for his health," said Capt. James Miclon of the Oxford County Sheriff's Office. Smith's brother called police after not hearing from Smith in about three days. A postmortem is planned to attempt to determine the cause of death.

King is still recovering (a leg was broken in nine places, his knee was split, a hip was fractured, among other injuries). He had objected to a plea bargain that let Smith off with a year of probation and suspended driver's license, despite nearly a dozen previous traffic infractions. Smith said he was distracted by his dog when his van veered off the road and hit King.

After police called King on Friday to tell him of Smith's death, the author said, "I would wish better for anyone. Our lives came together in a strange way. I'm grateful I didn't die. I'm sorry he's gone."

King told USA TODAY on Saturday that he never thought it was an issue of "punishing" Smith and questioned if it would do any good to send him to jail. But, he added, "I felt he was a danger to himself and to others. Something more needed to be done that wasn't done."

King also said that he began to think of Smith "almost as a force of nature. What happened to me was almost as if I had been struck by lightning. He wasn't a very good driver. It was my bad luck that I happened to be in his way."

In his new book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, out Oct. 2, King describes what he remembers of the accident, writing in part: "I'm lying in the ditch and there's blood all over my face and my right leg hurts. I look down and see something I don't like: my lap now appears to be on sideways, as if my whole lower body had been wrenched half a turn to the right."

King notes that Smith later told police he was driving from a campground to get "some of those Marzes-bars they have up to the store." When King heard that later, "it occurs to me that I have nearly been killed by a character right out of one of my own novels. It's almost funny."