An off-duty Miccosukee police captain veered into oncoming traffic on Tamiami Trail early Saturday, hitting another car — and killing a fellow tribal member, authorities said.
The police captain, Duane Billie, 37, a father of three and nephew of the tribal chairman, also was killed immediately.
The driver of the other car was Teresa Osceloa, 54.
The double tragedy has devastated the small tribe of about 600 members in West Miami-Dade.
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A longtime officer and one of the few tribal members on the force, Billie recently had been promoted to captain. He was a member of the Bird clan, the largest of the tribe.
The department enforces tribal law and also has the authority to make arrests of non-Indians on Tamiami Trail.
Former Miccosukee police chief Dave Ward called Billie a “great humble man who loved his tribe, his family and law enforcement.” He remembered calling Billie into his office back in 2003.
“This is your chair. I am keeping it warm for you. It is your destiny to become chief of the Miccosukee,” Ward told him.
Ward said Saturday: “I am devastated to hear of this terrible loss.”
The crash occurred just after 8 a.m. on Tamiami Trail, about 10 miles west of Krome Avenue, where the tribe runs a casino and resort.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Billie was driving his 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe west toward the reservation. He tried passing behind a Toyota Corolla by veering into the opposite lane.
The SUV plowed head on into an oncoming Range Rover driven by Osceola. The impact was so severe that both drivers died immediately, according to FHP spokesman Joe Sanchez.
“Speed was a factor,” Sanchez said.
Whether alcohol was a factor will be determined by toxicology tests conducted as part of the autopsies.
Investigators found some 30 firearms in the SUV of Billie, an avid hunter and gun collector.
The crash closed traffic for five hours on Tamiami Trail, which runs past the reservation and into Naples.
High-profile accidents involving the tribe have happened in the past — but have never resulted in two fatalities of tribal members at the same time.
In 1998, a tribal member named Tammie Billie killed a Miami woman in a DUI crash on Tamiami Trail. She was later imprisoned and the tribe is now on the hook for a $3.2 million civil judgment.
Eleven years later, several tribe members got into a wreck with a non-Indian Kendall woman driving west. State prosecutors squabbled with the department over releasing crash reports and scene photos; the tribe claimed soverign immunity even though the accident happened on a state road.
Ultimately, prosecutors found the tribal members were not to blame.
Also in 2009, Thomas Cypress — the brother of the then-chairman — killed two tourists in a drunk-driving crash on Tamiami Trail. He is serving 12 years in prison and was later ordered to pay $35 million to the next of kin.