Steven Barnes showed no emotion at the crash scene after he drove into 3-year-old Priscila Perez-Gaspar, but he quickly came to his own defense.
He blurted out that he had been a diabetic for 10 years, according to documents obtained by The Palm Beach Post. He claimed he had blacked out during the crash and woke up in the bushes along Kirk Road.
But neither blackouts nor his permanently revoked driving license stopped Barnes from getting behind the wheel Sept. 23. And evidence recovered from his pickup raises the possibility that Barnes had been abusively inhaling an industrial solvent — a practice known as “huffing.”
Barnes, 56, of suburban Lake Worth, faces charges of vehicular homicide and driving with a revoked license causing death.
Deputies with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office arrested Barnes five days after the wreck, considered unusually quick in a vehicular homicide case.
Daemon Drew was arrested in September 2012, four months after he caused a crash at Seminole Pratt Whitney Road and Orange Boulevard in The Acreage that took the life of Lesa Taveras, 53. Jabari Kemp was arrested about two months after he caused a wreck that killed five young people April 12 near Interstate 95 in Riviera Beach.
A tip the sheriff’s media relations department received may have sped things up: Barnes was planning to leave town for Mexico, where he has family, sources said.
Barnes’ blood alcohol content was .066 — within the legal limit of .08, according to a sheriff’s office probable-cause affidavit.
However, deputies told Barnes at the scene of the crash that his blood-sugar level was more than 500 — a threshold level for emergency treatment — and that he should have known that consuming alcohol with his condition could result in losing consciousness.
Sources said Barnes was impaired at the time of his arrest Friday night.
At the crash scene Sept. 23, deputies determined Barnes was impaired and also found in the truck an empty can of Toluene, an industrial solvent commonly used for huffing. A hand towel and a small opened bag of floor finishing additive was also found. Deputies reported they believed Barnes was not only under the influence of alcohol, but also a chemical substance.
A sheriff’s office corporal “also observed that Barnes was calm and collected and showed no emotion, which seemed unusual after running over a child,” a deputy wrote in the affidavit.
Barnes initially refused medical attention but then began complaining he didn’t feel well. Fire rescue crews took him to a local hospital and treated him with IV fluids.
Barnes’ wife, Brenda Barnes, told deputies that her husband has diabetes and that he often blacks out.
Deputies said Barnes also hit a parked vehicle and drove across the sidewalk and two driveways. A broken fence, a downed mailbox and uprooted and broken shrubs were also visible.
There was no evidence that Barnes either braked or tried steering to change the pickup’s direction, the affidavit said.
A witness told deputies she saw Barnes walking to a nearby canal after the crash. She said she advised him not to leave because his truck had just hit a child.