During the European leg of the Damage Inc. tour in support of Master of Puppets, the band complained that the sleeping cubicles on their tour bus were unsatisfactory and uncomfortable. To decide who received pick of the bunks, Kirk Hammett and Burton drew cards. On the evening of September 26, 1986, Burton won the game with an Ace of Spades, thereby getting the first choice of bunk and pointed at Hammett and exclaimed "I want your bunk!" Hammett replied "Fine, take my bunk, it's probably better up there anyway". He was asleep when shortly before 7 am (on the 27th), according to the driver, the bus skidded off the road (the E4, 2 miles north of Ljungby), and flipped onto the grass in Ljungby Municipality, near Dörarp in rural southern Sweden. Burton was thrown through the window of the bus, which fell on top of him. They tried to save him and managed to lift the bus a little, but before they could retrieve him, the weight of the bus became too much and was dropped.
James Hetfield later stated that he first believed the bus flipped because the driver was drunk, claiming his breath smelled of alcohol after the accident. Hetfield also stated that he walked long distances down the road looking for black ice and found none. Local freelance photographer Lennart Wennberg, who attended the crash scene the following morning, later asked in an interview about the likelihood that black ice caused the accident, said it was 'out of the question' because the road was dry and the temperature around two degrees Celsius (37 degrees Fahrenheit). This was confirmed by police who found no ice on the road. Ljungby detective Arne Pettersson was reported in a local newspaper to have said the tracks at the accident site were exactly like ones seen when drivers fall asleep at the wheel. However, the driver stated under oath that he had slept during the day and was fully rested; his testimony was confirmed by the driver of a second tour bus that was carrying the band's crew and equipment. The driver was determined not at fault for the accident and no charges were brought against him.
Burton was cremated and his ashes scattered at the Maxwell Ranch. At the ceremony, the song "Orion" was played. The lyrics "...cannot the Kingdom of Salvation take me home?" from "To Live Is to Die" are written on Burton's memorial stone.