MILFORD — The driver of a tractor trailer died after he hit a tree on Route 519 in Hunterdon County, narrowly missing a house, according to State Police.

State Police Sgt. 1st Class Lawrence Peele told New Jersey 101.5 the truck was traveling north, coming down a hill on County Route 519, and went through the intersection with County Route 619 around 2 p.m.

The truck went off the road, struck a guardrail, a utility pole and the deck of a residence before hitting the tree and bursting into flames, according to Peele.

Michael Shorter, 33, of Atlanta, was trapped in the cab and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Pictures of the crash scene show the tree was to the left of the house. Peete did not disclose if anyone was inside the house at the time of the crash.

The Milford Merchants Association praised Shorter for possibly steering the truck away from the house and the volunteers of Milford Fire Co. for being at the fiery scene.

"Shorter died in the fire as his cab hit a tree, perhaps because in the last seconds of his life he steered to not hit the house. We will never know, but it is a gracious thought," the Association wrote on its Facebook page. "We want to thank you, dearest firemen, for your bravery, now with difficult memories of a lifetime."

The fire company on Monday morning did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's request for more information. A spokeswoman for the Milford Merchants Association was not able to speak.

The intersection was closed for approximately seven hours for an investigation. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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