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Trooper dies after wreck
Phillippi had 42 years with the Virginia State Police
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Sgt. J. Michael Phillippi

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sgt. J. Michael Phillippi, a 42-year veteran of the Virginia State Police, died early Saturday after he was found in a wrecked car on Chatham Road/Virginia 57.

“Highly respected for his leadership, strong character, integrity and dedication to mission, Sgt. Phillippi was totally loyal to the troopers he supervised and mentored and the community he served,” Col. W. Steven Flaherty, state police superintendent, stated in a release. “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.”

About 2:20 a.m. Saturday the Henry County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call about a vehicle crash on Chatham Road/Virginia 57 about 170 feet west of Route 9728/Pennrail Road, according to a state police news release and Sgt. Robert Carpentieri of the state police.

The crash investigation confirmed that the unmarked state police vehicle, a Chevrolet Impala, was eastbound on Virginia 57 when it ran off the right side of the road and struck a highway sign. The car then crossed back over Virginia 57, ran off the left side and struck an embankment, according to the release and Carpentieri.

The car suffered minimal damage, which suggests that it was not traveling at a high rate of speed at the time of impact, according to Carpentieri and the release.

When rescue crews arrived, they found Phillippi seated inside the crashed patrol car, wearing his seat belt and unresponsive, according to Carpentieri and the release. State police were notified immediately and responded to the scene.

Phillippi was transported to Memorial Hospital in Martinsville, 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, according to the release and Carpentieri.

The Virginia State Police Salem Division Crash Reconstruction Team is investigating the crash. The incident, including the cause of death, remains under investigation, according to the release and Carpentieri.

Phillippi, 65, was working the overnight supervisory shift for the Salem Division at the time of his death, according to Carpentieri and the release,

Phillippi spent the majority of his 42 years with the department assigned to the Virginia State Police Area 42 Office, encompassing the counties of Henry and Patrick and the city of Martinsville.

Phillippi, a Martinsville resident and native of Gate City, Va., joined the state police on May 1, 1971, and was promoted to sergeant in February 1990, according to the release and Carpentieri.

The release described Phillippi as “a revered department supervisor” and said his death became the department’s 60th line-of-duty death.

Virginia 57 was reopened to through traffic shortly after 6 a.m. Saturday.

Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe held a moment of silence in honor of Phillippi at Saturday’s inaugural prayer breakfast in Richmond, The Associated Press reported.


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