In the moments before Jorge Guevara was killed Monday, police said, he swerved his school bus in a futile attempt to avoid an out-of-control cement truck that was closing in fast.
His final act of selflessness was no surprise to those who knew and loved the Locust Valley man.
"That was just like him," said Jose Maldonado, 13, who considered Guevara as a combined best friend and uncle.
The bus driver and his wife shared a house with Jose and his parents, said Maria Maldonado, 32, Jose's mother.
Wednesday, Maldonado and other friends, along with relatives of Guevara, tried to make sense of his death while remembering how he lived.
Guevara died Monday afternoon when the driver of a cement truck slammed into his school bus on Oyster Bay Road near a Long Island Rail Road overpass on the Locust Valley-Matinecock border. Four children and a 64-year-old bus attendant were treated at hospitals for injuries and released. The driver of the cement truck, whose name has not been released by police, was also treated and released.
Jose Maldonado climbed on his bicycle Wednesday and rode to the overpass. Once there, he stood near a red, spray-painted mark denoting the collision.
"My heart started pumping even faster, thinking how it must have happened," Maldonado said. "It just made me think, 'Why did it have to be him?' "
He said Guevara, 45, never grew tired of helping others, like dropping him off at a friend's house if Jose's parents were working.
"He would always take care of me."
The truck driver, who works for Nicolia Ready-Mix in Lindenhurst, did not realize his 13-foot-high cement mixer would not fit beneath the overpass, police said. The overpass has a clearance of 10 feet, 1 inch, police said.
Company president Antonio L. Nicolia has said the truck driver ended up on Oyster Bay Road after taking a wrong turn.
"He was a true hero," said Maria Maldonado. "He was a great person. He had a great big heart. Everyone loved him. He was part of our family."
Guevara would greet each child who got on his bus with a wave and hello, Jose Maldonado said. "It was his favorite thing to do, driving the kids to school and picking them up," the teen said.
Joanne Ewen, a neighbor in the Underhill Avenue neighborhood of Locust Valley, is a child development worker who works with a boy who was hurt in the crash.
"I never had a chance to meet Jorge, but I've heard he was a terrific driver and really nice with the kids."