At about 4:30 p.m. on June 19, 1999, 51-year-old Edwin was enjoying his daily stroll along the highway near his home in Lovell, Maine. It was a gorgeous walk under the shade of a variety of Oak and evergreen trees. Although there was no sidewalk, Edwin felt safe as he walked along the gravel shoulder of the road. Old stone fences stood just off of the west side of state highway 5. An occasional break in the fences and trees offered Edwin gorgeous views of Maine’s countryside.
41-year-old disabled former construction worker Bryan Smith and Bullet, his Rottweiler, were camping on nearby Kezar Lake. In preparation for their camping trip, Bryan had filled his ice chest with steaks and cold drinks. Twenty years earlier, Bryan had an accident at work which severely injured his back. His chronic back pain was so intense that his mobility was limited and he was only able to walk with a cane. Much to his pleasure, his work-related injury did not hinder his driving ability. While at the campsite, Bryan got a craving for something sweet. When he realized he had not brought any snacks, he decided to go to the nearest store to get some Mars candy bars. He loaded Bullet into his 1985 Dodge Caravan and headed to the store. As they drove, Bryan heard a commotion coming from behind him. He turned and saw Bullet trying to get to the steaks in the cooler.
Edwin was walking up a short hill against traffic when he saw Bryan’s Dodge veer toward him. There was no time for Edwin or Bryan to react. Bryan’s van struck Edwin on his right side. The force of the impact threw Edwin about twelve feet into the air and into the ditch near a pile of rocks. Bryan slammed on the brakes.
Stunned and injured from the impact, Edwin looked up and saw the back of Bryan’s van. He noticed the back of the van was dusty and dirty. He carefully wiped blood out of his eyes. He glanced around and saw Bryan sitting on a nearby rock with a cane across his lap. When Bryan noticed that Edwin was conscious, he calmly, yet somewhat cheerily, reassured him that help was on the way. Bryan then commiserated, “Ain’t the two of us just had the [expletive] of luck?” Edwin gave no reply. He looked at his body and noticed that it was “wrenched half a turn to the right.” Bryan told him that his right leg was broken in “maybe six places.” Edwin drifted in and out of consciousness while Bryan calmly waited for emergency services to arrive.
Edwin regained consciousness when Emergency Medical Technicians cut the jeans from his lower body. One of the bones in Edwin’s right leg was crushed into something resembling “many marbles in a sock.” He suffered a fractured hip and pelvis, four broken ribs, a scalp laceration, and his spine was chipped in eight places. EMTs strapped him onto a gurney and loaded him into an ambulance. The EMT treating Edwin told the driver “You want to really hammer it.” The ambulance sped off and traveled at speeds nearing 100 miles per hour toward the nearest hospital. Once at the hospital, doctors quickly made the decision to fly Edwin to a larger hospital which was better equipped to render the aid that Edwin’s injuries required. One of the EMTs asked Edwin if he had ever flown in a helicopter before. Edwin tried to respond but suddenly struggled to breathe. He was only able to whisper, “Feel like I’m drowning.” Edwin’s lung had collapsed. EMTs inserted a breathing tube and Edwin was able to breathe again. Edwin remembered looking out at the bright summer sky and thinking “I am actually lying in death’s doorway.”
The EMTs’ quick response saved Edwin’s life. Doctors performed several “marathon surgical procedures” and repaired his broken body. Ten days after the accident, Edwin was finally able to get out of the hospital bed. He was only able to sit up for short times before the pain to his hip and pelvis was too much to endure. Edwin’s recovery was slow and painful. Sometime during Edwin’s recovery, his wife bought Bryan’s van for $1,600 to keep Bryan from selling pieces of the van as souvenirs.
Police learned that Bryan had several driving offenses to his discredit. He was convicted of two speeding violations in 1988, operating under the influence in 1989, failing to produce proof insurance in 1991, two more speeding violations in 1994, and driving to endanger and failing to stop for a police officer in connection with an incident in 1998. On September 30, 1999, a grand jury charged Bryan with aggravated assault and driving to endanger. If convicted, Bryan would face more than 10 years in prison.
Bryan was remorseful but claimed that he was being treated unfairly. “To be honest with you,” he told reporters, “I am very deeply sorry.” He argued that “I’m being used as a guinea pig. I know I hit him. I didn’t mean to. Somebody can’t accept that. Why can’t they accept that it was an accident?” Edwin was angry that Bryan was able to keep his driving privileges for three months following the collision, and argued for jail time for Bryan to keep him from driving as long as possible. Bryan eventually pled guilty to driving to endanger and received a six-month suspended sentence. As a condition of his plea agreement, he was banned from driving for a year. Edwin, shocked by the lite sentence, referred to the plea agreement as “irresponsible public business.” Edwin angrily criticized Bryan to reporters, “This guy…has the IQ of a tomato-soup can. An empty tomato-soup can.”
In September of 2000, Bryan’s mother became concerned because none of the family had heard from Bryan in three days. She went to Bryan’s trailer but was unable to get him to answer the door. Bryan’s brother asked that a deputy from the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department check on Bryan. A deputy peered through the windows and saw Bryan lying in his bed with the covers pulled up to his chest. The deputy knocked on the window and shouted but Bryan would not respond. The only sound from the trailer came from Bryan’s two Rottweilers, Bullet and Pistol, who barked at the deputy. The deputy forced his way into Bryan’s trailer and an animal control officer took charge of Bullet and Pistol. The deputy checked but found no pulse. 43-year-old Bryan was dead. The deputy found seven different medications that Bryan had been taking for pain and depression. There was no evidence to suspect foul play and they found no suicide note. Three months later, the medical examiner revealed that, based on Bryan’s toxicology report, he had died of an accidental overdose of the strong painkiller Fentanyl.
According to his headstone, Bryan died on September 21, 2000, which was Edwin’s 53rd birthday. In addition, Bryan and Edwin shared the same middle name. Edwin, the man whom Bryan hit with his van, was the middle name of horror fiction writer Stephen King.
- The Bangor Daily News, January 5, 2000, p.11.
- The Province (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), June 18, 2000, p.38.
- The Observer (London, England), September 17, 2000, P.224.
- The Bangor Daily News, September 25, 2000, p.1.
- The Bangor Daily News, September 27, 2000, p.14.
- The Bangor Daily News, October 30, 2000, p.3.
- The Bangor Daily News, December 6, 2000, p.15.
- Find A Grave. “Bryan Edwin Smith.” Accessed September 27, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/5083094/bryan-edwin-smith.