BELLE PLAINE, Minn. (WCCO) — Crash investigators are working to identify the vehicle and driver who killed a young Belle Plaine father and then fled the scene.

The hit-and-run crash happened Sunday morning between 4:30 and 5 a.m. near the intersection of northbound highway 169 and Belle Plaine Trail. Derek Fath, 29, was pronounced dead at the scene.

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“Just one of the nicest guys you could ever meet,” said childhood friend Drew Reinke.

On Monday, Reinke was still shaking his head in disbelief after learning that his best friend since middle school was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

“I just couldn’t believe it that he was gone,” Reinke said.

Fath was walking home around 4:30 a.m. Sunday when he was struck and left to die along Highway 169 just outside of Belle Plaine.

“He (Fath) loved his son so much. And that’s the worst part about this that his 2-year-old son is going to be without a dad,” Reinke said.

Reinke says the proud father and talented IT engineer was an avid recreationist. Fath loved tinkering with mechanics, sporting events and snowboarding.

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When not playing with his son he was playing paintball with close friends – he competed on a team known as the Renegade Kings.

“He loved paintball. He actually traveled out of state and would go to Illinois and Wisconsin. He loved paintball, that was one of his favorite hobbies,” Reinke said.

Minnesota State Patrol investigators are piecing together what happened and are now reviewing the accident reconstruction data. Investigators are now trying to locate the vehicle and the hit-and-run driver. They are certain that person was aware they hit a human but can’t say why they fled the scene.

“Right now the investigation is in the preliminary stages, so we really don’t know what type of vehicle was involved. So anything the public can help us out with we’d greatly appreciate,” State Patrol Lt. Robert Zak said.

Meantime, friends are making an emotional appeal for the person responsible to come forward.

“If you’re out there watching this please come forward. Every day you don’t, every minute it hurts us more and more each day – please?” Reinke said.

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Anyone who may have witnessed the crash or who suspects a person or vehicle involved is asked to contact State patrol West Metro Dispatch at (651) 582-1502.