Virginia State Police are still investigating the cause and circumstances surrounding a crash involving a revered department supervisor. Saturday’s death of Sgt. J. Michael Phillippi became the department’s 60th line of duty death.
At approximately 2:20 a.m., Saturday (Jan. 11, 2014), the Henry County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call about a vehicle crash in the county on Chatham Road/Route 57, approximately 170 feet west of Route 9728/Pennrail Road. The crash investigation has confirmed that the blue, unmarked Chevrolet Impala was eastbound on Route 57 when it ran off the right side of the road and struck a highway sign. The car then crossed back over Route 57, ran off the left side and struck an embankment.
The car suffered minimal damage, which suggests that it was not traveling at a high rate of speed at the time of impact.
When rescue crews arrived, they found Sgt. Phillippi still seated inside the crashed patrol car wearing his seat belt. State police were immediately notified and responded to the scene. Phillippi was transported to Martinsville Memorial Hospital, where he died a short time later. His remains have been transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Roanoke for autopsy and examination.
“Highly respected for his leadership, strong character, integrity, and dedication to mission, Sergeant Phillippi was totally loyal to the troopers he supervised and mentored, and the community he served,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “His death is being felt across the Commonwealth and especially within the Henry County-Martinsville region, where he has spent the past several decades on patrol.”
The Virginia State Police Salem Division Crash Reconstruction Team is investigating the crash. The incident, to include the cause of death, remains under investigation at this time.
Sgt. Phillippi, 65, was working the overnight supervisory shift for the Salem Division at the time of his death. He has spent the majority of his 42 years with the Department assigned to the Virginia State Police Area 42 Office, which encompasses the City of Martinsville and the counties of Henry and Patrick. A native of Gate City, Va., he joined the state police May 1, 1971, and was promoted to sergeant in February 1990.
Sgt. Phillippi is survived by his wife.