NEWS 2000

Monday September 25 2:34 PM ET

Man's Death Brings Novelist Sorrow

FRYEBURG, Maine (AP) - An autopsy did not explain the death of the man whose van struck and severely injured horror writer Stephen King, officials said Monday.

Bryan Smith, 43, was found dead Friday at his home in Fryeburg, with no sign of injury.

The autopsy Monday also found no evidence of trauma but no conclusion was reached on the cause of death pending the outcome of toxicology tests, according to a statement from the state medical examiner's office. Those tests could take several months.

Earlier Monday, King expressed sorrow over the death of the man he once said took his "peace of mind and my ease of body."

"I was very sorry to hear of the passing of Bryan Smith," King said in a statement issued by his assistant, Julie Eugley. "The death of a 43-year-old man can only be termed untimely."

There was no sign of violence or trauma when Smith's body was found, Capt. James Miclon of the Oxford County Sheriff's Office said. "He was on a variety of medications for his health," Miclon said.

Smith struck and seriously injured King while driving a van in North Lovell in June 1999. King, who was walking along the road, suffered broken bones in his right leg and hip, broken ribs, a punctured lung and a head injury.

Smith pleaded guilty in January to a misdemeanor driving-to-endanger charge. Prosecutors dropped a charge of aggravated assault. Smith received a six-month suspended jail sentence.

Smith said he was distracted by his dog. He publicly apologized to King while insisting the crash was an accident and no one was at fault.

At the time of the sentencing, King, 53, chided prosecutors for making a deal that did not include any jail time and did not permanently revoke Smith's license.

"What he took from me, my time, my peace of mind and my ease of body, are simply gone and no court can bring them back," King said in January.