(ran North, South editions)
Shannon Smith always warned her husband to wear his helmet, even though the avid motorcyclist had a tendency not to wear one.
But when Kristopher Smith left their home in the Spring Hill section of Pasco County on Sept. 23, he promised his wife he would do so.
As he hopped onto his Kawasaki motorcycle that evening, his daughter, Brittney, turned to her mother and uttered six unforgettable words: "Daddy is going to get hurt."
Brittney's words stuck with Mrs. Smith.
"The last thing he said to me is that he was going to get gas and put his helmet on," said Mrs. Smith, a 27-year-old nurse at Spring Hill Regional Hospital.
Mr. Smith died last Friday from injuries he suffered a day earlier when his motorcycle collided with a 1998 Honda driven by James Clougher, 20, on Linden Drive in Spring Hill. He was 27.
Mrs. Smith didn't know if her husband had donned the helmet as he promised. In fact, for much of the past week she could only speculate on what happened because Hurricane Jeanne had hampered a Florida Highway Patrol investigator from releasing the details of the crash. Also, there were no witnesses.
On Wednesday, FHP released its report which indicated that Smith was not wearing a helmet at the time of the wreck.
"I am still in shock," Mrs. Smith said by telephone. "I am thinking that he will pull up any minute.'
Mr. Smith was traveling south on Linden Drive near Bend Street when he crossed the center line and collided with a coupe driven by James Clougher, the FHP report said.
As a result of the collision, Mr. Smith was thrown onto the shoulder of the roadway, according to the report. He was unresponsive when paramedics arrived at the scene. He was flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg.
Clougher, of Spring Hill, did not require medical attention, the report stated. No charges have been filed in connection with the crash.
Mr. Smith, an account manager at Master Halco fencing company in Tampa, may have been heading home from the gym. Nonetheless he could not have gone far, Mrs. Smith explained, because he told her he would return shortly.
When Mr. Smith did not return, his wife and his mother, Sherry Hoffman of Seminole, called him repeatedly without success.
"If he wouldn't come right back, he would have called," Mrs. Smith said.
About 11 p.m. that night, a trooper broke the news to her. By then, FHP had already contacted Hoffman, possibly from the contacts in Mr. Smith's cellular phone.
The next day, doctors told Mrs. Smith that there was no chance at recovery for her husband and doctors began the process of harvesting his organs for donation. Mr. Smith was later pronounced dead.
A native of Berrien Springs, Mich., Mr. Smith lived in New Port Richey and Seminole before moving to the Spring Hill section of Pasco County in 2002. He married Shannon about eight years ago.
While there are too many memories of her husband to recall, Mrs. Smith spoke of her husband's relationship with their two young children, Brittney and son, Grant.
Her husband was a better parent than she was, she said. He would take his children out to breakfast occasionally, Mrs. Smith said..
"He was the strongest person that I have ever known," she said. "I should have been the one to go, not him."