End of Watch: November 14, 1959
Years of Service: 3
Badge #: 96
Cause of Death: Automobile Accident
National Memorial Panel: 42-W: 1
Sergeant Walter Burgess was killed when the cruiser he was riding in was involved in a head-on collision with another automobile.
Burgess was a passenger in Car 27 with Trooper Daniel J. Boyle operating the vehicle early that morning. At 1:30 a.m., the troopers overtook a vehicle with three men in it which had been clocked up to 70 miles per hour. Trooper Boyle took two of the men in the police car, and Trooper Burgess drove the third occupant of the speeding vehicle in that machine. While transporting the trio to the Lincoln barracks for routine questioning, one of the occupants from the speeding vehicle blacked out with an asthmatic or cardiac attack. Everyone got into the police cruiser and headed for Woonsocket Hospital.
The cruiser, with its flashing light and siren on, was driving on Cumberland Hill Road when it neared the entrance to Mendon Road, an area with a dangerous curve and slope in the road. Suddenly an oncoming vehicle carrying three passengers appeared out of the fog, failed to make the curve, and skidded on the slick pavement onto the wrong side of the road. The oncoming vehicle hit the police cruiser head on, throwing the occupants out of the vehicles. Two men died in the accident, one of them Trooper Burgess.
Burgess served in the United States Navy during the Korean War. On the day of his death, Trooper Walter J. Burgess was posthumously promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
Sergeant Burgess gave his life while in the performance of his duty and died upholding the highest traditions of the Rhode Island State Police and "In the Service of the State." He was the seventh member of the Rhode Island State Police to be killed in the line of duty.