By Laura Kebede
HENRY COUNTY, Va. — An on-duty Virginia State Police sergeant died early Saturday after he was found in an unmarked patrol car that had veered off the road in Henry County, authorities said.
State police said Sgt. J. Michael Phillippi, 65, was discovered in the vehicle on state Route 57 about 2:20 a.m. after the blue, unmarked Chevrolet Impala veered off the right side of the road, struck a highway sign, crossed back over Route 57, ran off the left side and struck an embankment.
Authorities said the damage to the car was minimal, suggesting that it was not traveling at a high speed at the point of impact.
When rescue crews arrived, they found Phillippi seated in the car wearing his seat belt. He was taken to the Memorial Hospital of Martinsville and Henry County, where he died.
The state medical examiner's office will perform an autopsy to find out the cause of death, which authorities said had not been determined as of Saturday afternoon. The death is under investigation by a state police crash team.
Phillippi had been working an overnight supervisory shift for the agency's Salem Division. His death marks the department's 60th line-of-duty death.
A native of Gate City, Phillippi joined the state police in 1971 and, for a majority of his time with the department, he was assigned to the Area 42 Office, which encompasses Martinsville and Henry and Patrick counties. He was promoted to sergeant in 1990.
"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 Col. W. Steven Flaherty, superintendent of the state police.
Phillippi is survived by his wife, Peggy.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2014 the Richmond Times-Dispatch