It is a scene that has played out on the western edges of Tamiami Trail before.
A car swerves into the wrong lane and causes a deadly head-on collision.
At 6:45 Wednesday evening, three people would die, including two overseas tourists and a member of an Idaho tribe. The fourth person involved in the crash, a Miccosukee tribal member, was airlifted to Kendall Regional in critical condition. The crash comes almost six months to the day after another deadly accident involving two Miccosukee tribal members.
Investigators on Thursday were trying to figure out what caused a 2001 Lexus IS300 heading eastbound on the dark stretch of the trail to veer into the westbound lane. The violent crash happened 11 miles west of Krome Avenue just before the Miccosukee reservation, Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Joe Sanchez said.
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Killed were the driver of the Lexus, Justin Case Rabago, of Hollywood, and two tourists in the Jeep, one from Germany and one from Great Britain. Investigators are working with the consuls of the two countries to notify the next of kin.
The passenger in the Lexus, Glen McKinley Osceola, the Miccosukee member, was in critical condition.
“Both vehicles were destroyed,” Sanchez said. “We couldn’t even get them out of the cars. From the impact you could tell speed was a factor.”
Sanchez said the driver of the Lexus, Rabago, 35, tried to pass traffic and slammed into the Jeep, causing the Jeep to careen into a guardrail. Police initially thought Rabago was a member of the Seminole Tribe, but after checking with the tribe, Sanchez said he was a member of an Idaho tribe.
Tamiami Trail, which runs to Naples, was closed for more than three hours as investigators collected evidence.
A lawyer for the Miccosukee Tribe could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
The accident happened six months after another deadly head-on wreck on Tamiami Trail involving two Miccosukee members. Around 8 a.m. June 21, an off-duty Miccosukee police captain, Duane Billie, 37, a father of three and nephew of the tribal chairman, slammed into another Miccosukee member’s car. Both Billie and Teresa Osceola, 54, were killed on impact. Billie, driving a Chevrolet Tahoe, was trying to pass a car when he veered into the opposite lane and hit Osceola, who was driving a Range Rover.
The crash devastated the small tribe of about 600 in West Miami-Dade. It was later found that Billie, who was a longtime police officer and one of the few tribal members on the force, had a blood alcohol content level of 0.179, way above the legal limit of 0.08. The crash was the first to involve two fatalities of tribal members at the same time.
But there have been several deadly accidents over the years on Tamiami Trail involving the Miccosukee.
▪ In a February 2009 crash, Thomas Cypress — the brother of then-chairman Billy Cypress — collided head-on with a retired Maryland couple, Robert and Paulette Kirkpatrick, who were killed instantly. Police found Cypress unconscious with a case of beer in his cab. Cypress is serving 12 years in prison for a double DUI manslaughter conviction — his blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit — and was later ordered to pay $35 million to the Kirkpatricks’ next of kin.
▪ Also in 2009, there was a crash involving several tribe members and a Kendall woman driving west. The tribe claimed sovereign immunity even though the accident happened on a state road. Prosecutors ended up ruling that tribal members were not to blame.
In 1998, a tribal member, Tammy Gwen Billie, killed Liliana Bermudez, of Miami, who was traveling on Tamiami Trail with her husband and baby son to fish off a pier at Marco Island. Police toxicology reports showed Billie was driving under the influence of cocaine. She pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and served eight years in prison. A judge ruled that the tribe is on the hook for a $3.2 million civil judgment.