A sanitation worker died Sunday morning after a semitractor-trailer struck the garbage truck he was on in Cedarhurst, police said.

Henry Owens, 66, was the first worker from Sanitary District 1, an independent sanitation district in the Town of Hempstead, to be killed in the line of duty, district superintendent George Pappas said.

Owens, of Springfield Gardens, Queens, succumbed to his injuries Sunday after a semitractor-trailer traveling southbound on Rockaway Turnpike struck the garbage truck as it was reversing into a location at the intersection of Rockaway Turnpike and Burnside Avenue just before 5 a.m. Friday, Nassau County police said. Owens was ejected from the rear of the vehicle and was transported to a nearby hospital with multiple serious injuries. The semi's driver stayed on the scene.

Owens had worked for the sanitary district for more than 40 years, said Pappas, who first met Owens when they worked on a truck together in 1980. Younger employees looked up to Owens, who created a welcoming environment and "gave them advice about life and about staying on the straight path."

Owens was a "gentle giant" and "the nicest man you’d ever want to meet," Pappas said.

"He took patience and care with everybody. He came to work every day, made us smile and laugh," Pappas said.

Sanitary District 1 is one of five independent sanitation districts within Hempstead Town. The district is overseen by a board of commissioners and provides municipal waste services to more than 50,000 residents and commercial properties in the Five Towns area, according to the district’s website.

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