Herbert Coward, known for his role as the Toothless Man in “Deliverance,” tragically died in a car accident in North Carolina along with a friend and his cherished pets. After a medical appointment in Haywood County on Wednesday, Coward was turning left out of a parking lot when his silver Nissan was hit by another vehicle attempting to avoid him.
Sgt. Michael Owens from the North Carolina Highway Patrol stated that officers were dispatched following a 911 call about a crash at 3:23 p.m. According to Owens, Herbert Coward and Bertha Brooks were exiting a doctor’s office located off U.S. 19, between Clyde and Canton, when Coward did not yield.
His small Nissan car was then hit on the passenger side by a Ford F-150 driven by a 16-year-old. Owens also noted that neither Coward nor Brooks was wearing a seatbelt, and speed was not a contributing factor in the accident according to Smoky Mountain News.
“We had multiple witnesses who stated the driver of the F-150 wasn’t speeding,” he said, and added, “And our investigation of the damage at the scene also led us to believe that.” The crash also claimed the lives of their beloved pet Chihuahua and Coward’s cherished pet squirrel.
Herbert “Cowboy” Coward was best known for his role as the toothless, sadistic mountain man in the 1972 film “Deliverance.” The film, directed by John Boorman, is a thriller about four city men on a weekend canoe trip who encounter brutal backwoods locals in the Georgia wilderness. Coward’s disturbing portrayal, particularly in the infamous “squeal like a pig” scene, contributed significantly to the film’s tension and sense of danger.
Prior to “Deliverance,” Coward was not a professional actor. He was discovered by the film’s producers during a talent search in the area where the movie was filmed. His authentic mountain man appearance and natural acting ability helped him secure the role.
After “Deliverance,” Coward continued to work occasionally in films and television, but he didn’t pursue a full-time acting career. He became somewhat of a cult figure, especially among fans of the film, for his memorable and unsettling performance.