The Mastic Beach man who was shot to death in his car Monday morning was a hardworking family man who recently returned to his construction job after a battle with heart disease, said friends of the 51-year-old.

Raymond Hirt, of Washington Avenue, was shot about 7 a.m. as he started his flagman shift at a Lake Ronkonkoma construction site, police said. Hirt died of his wound - a gunshot to the neck - at Stony Brook University Medical Center about three hours later, police said.

Police said they don't yet have a motive for the killing and there have been no arrests in connection with the case. The suspect, or suspects, drove away in a dark sport utility vehicle after firing the shot that killed Hirt, police said.

Hirt had a fiancee who stayed with him a few times a week, and an adult son who lived away at college, neighbors said. Hirt was fond of motorcycles and his pet snakes, and "if you were in a jam, he'd always give you a hand," said friend and neighbor Vinny Polis.

Another neighbor, Stacy McGinn, said Hirt was a fixture at neighborhood luaus and other cookouts.

Friends said Hirt recently had a heart attack but seemed to be recovering and had returned to Pratt Brothers Inc., a Bay Shore construction firm, where he had worked for about five years.

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"I'm just in shock," McGinn said. "We watch out for each other here."

The shooting happened on Beech Street South near a construction site across from the Lake Ronkonkoma Super Stop & Shop on Portion Road. The construction project is a county effort to improve three miles of Portion Road, a county spokesman said.

Pratt Brothers experienced a "collective sense of shock" from the shooting, said Gary Lewi, a spokesman for the general contractor.

Construction workers said they heard a gunshot, ran to Hirt's car, pulled him from the vehicle and attempted to help him.

Suffolk police notified Nassau County police that the shooter might have fled west on the Long Island Expressway.

Detectives asked anyone with information to call 631-852-6392 or 800-220-TIPS. Calls will be confidential, police said.

With John Valenti