A motorcyclist facing a DUI manslaughter charge in connection with his girlfriend’s death last year, claims he drank only two beers in The Villages hours prior to an accident.
Bryan Barnash, 59, of Clermont, had been riding a Harley-Davidson tricycle on the night of May 14 at Rolling Acres Road and County Road 466 in Lady Lake when the crash occurred, killing his live-in girlfriend, 58-year-old Diane Lanthier, who had been riding as a passenger. Lanthier and Barnash were airlifted from the scene to Ocala Regional Medical Center. Neither of them had been wearing helmets. She died a few days later from injuries suffered in the crash. Blood tests revealed Barnash’s blood alcohol level had been .159 on the night of the accident.
With his DUI manslaughter case pending in Lake County Court, Barnash is also locked in a legal battle with Lanthier’s mother, Theresa Fioretti of New Jersey, over the payout of Lanthier’s life insurance policy. Lanthier had been employed by Hunton Brady Architects PA and was covered under the company’s group life insurance through Sun Life. She had designated Barnash as her sole primary beneficiary and had named her mother as her sole secondary beneficiary in the event Barnash predeceased her.
Barnash submitted a claim on June 1 seeking the life insurance payout. On June 9, he was charged in Lanthier’s death. Her mother subsequently challenged Barnash’s entitlement to the benefit due to his role in her daughter’s death. Sun Life has filed its own claim, indicating that it will be incurring legal fees as it attempts to sort out the dispute in court.
In a deposition in March in the life insurance case, when pressed by an attorney, Barnash said he drank two beers in The Villages on the day of the accident. He said he had been at his cousin’s vacation rental in The Villages and drank a beer at 3 p.m. and another beer at 7 p.m. The accident occurred shortly after 9 p.m.
In the deposition, Barnash claimed he has had memory problems since the accident.
He also denied he has a drinking problem and described himself as someone who drank “at 5 p.m. Friday” or would have a beer after cutting the grass.
In another affidavit, Barnash claimed the controls on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle “froze” moments before the May 14 accident in which he crashed into the back of another vehicle. He said his daughter-in-law later pointed out to him that there had been a recall of his make and model of motorcycle.