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Bryan Smith.

Bryan Edwin Smith (July 16, 1957 – September 21, 2000) was the driver of a van that hit author Stephen King in Lovell, Maine on June 19, 1999. He was brought before a grand jury and was indicted on two counts: driving to endanger and aggravated assault. He said that he had been distracted by his dog, which at the time of the accident was loose in the vehicle.[1][2] He pleaded guilty to driving to endanger, the lesser charge, was sentenced to six months' imprisonment (sentence suspended), and had his driver's license suspended for a year (he had nearly a dozen previous infractions on record). In an interview with Dateline NBC on November 1, 1999, Stephen King had commented that "There isn't really anything that he's got that I want except his license. Unfortunately that's a paper that's very hard to get away from anybody in any state."

On King's 53rd birthday, September 21, 2000, Smith was discovered dead in his trailer in Brownfield, Maine. The cause of Smith's death was listed as an accidental overdose of the painkiller fentanyl, according to toxicology reports. Smith had suffered from a back injury and might have been prescribed the painkiller not long before his death.

Stephen King publicly responded, stating, "I was very sorry to hear of the passing of Bryan Smith. The death of a 43-year-old man can only be termed untimely." During a 2001 interview with Bryant Gumbel on CBS' The Early Show, King noted that, besides dying on his birthday, Smith shared King's middle name (Edwin).[3]

Fictional character based on the event

Bryan Smith is a character in the Dark Tower series. King incorporated his accident into the final novel. Roland Deschain and his three companions – John "Jake" Chambers, Oy, the semi-sentient billy-bumbler, and a housewife named Irene Tassenbaum – try to stop King from being struck by the van.

Although many elements, such as the presence of the gunslinger, the boy, and the woman, are fictionalized, the injuries King suffered and conversations King and Smith had while awaiting medical personnel are based on actual conversations, although they are changed slightly from the way King presented them in On Writing. However, two rottweilers are present in the van, and in real life only one, Bullet, had been. This may be a deliberate author's error, meant to preserve the sense of multiple planes of reality.

Portions of King's miniseries Kingdom Hospital are also based on the accident, though most of the plot is derived from the Danish miniseries The Kingdom. In King's version, one of the main characters, Peter Rickman, is hit by a van driven by a man who is distracted by a dog in the back of the vehicle. In the miniseries, Kingdom Hospital is located in Lewiston, Maine, the real location of Central Maine Medical Center, the hospital where King spent most of his recovery time. In another parallel to the real accident, a later scene in the first episode of the miniseries shows the driver who hit Rickman taking unidentified pills by the mouthful out of a bottle. However, the driver in the story is younger than Smith was at the time of the accident.

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