Virginia State Police officer, who served 42 years, dies in crash

Posted at 4:32 PM, Jan 11, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-11 16:50:17-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – 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 is the 60th death in the line of duty for the the department.  Sgt. Phillippi, 65, was working the overnight supervisory shift for the Salem Division at the time of his death.

At approximately 2:20 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 11, 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, according to police.

The crash investigation team 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, police said.

When rescue crews arrived, they found Sgt. Phillippi seated inside the crashed patrol car,  wearing his seat belt. Phillippi was transported to Martinsville Memorial Hospital, where he died a short time later.

The Medical Examiner in Roanoke will complete an 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 incident remains under investigation at this time.

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.