A 38-year-old motorist who pulled onto an interstate ramp in Minneapolis to put gas in his car was hit and killed by an SUV that fled the scene, authorities said on Wednesday.

Anousone Phanthavong, of Roseville, a Minneapolis chef, was struck shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday on the ramp leading from westbound Interstate 94 to Riverside Avenue, according to the State Patrol.

Based on a broken front-passenger-side fog light recovered by investigators at the scene, the patrol believes the suspect was driving a Mercedes sport-utility vehicle.

Phanthavong had been "an inspired chef and a very hard worker" at True Thai Restaurant, a couple of blocks south of where he was hit, according to the restaurant's blog posting noting the hit-and-run. He was not working that evening.

"Because he died so close to our restaurant, I know that his spirit will be watching over us just as he watched over our kitchen these last nine years," co-owner Anna Prasomphol Fieser wrote.

Fieser said she and Phanthavong spoke on the phone about 9:15 p.m. and arranged for him to come to the restaurant for gas money.

However, Fieser added, Phanthavong didn't show up. She assumes he found another way to pay for the gas he was putting in his car at the time he was hit.

"The $20, I still have it," Fieser said on Wednesday afternoon.

Phanthavong "lived a very difficult life," she added. "He was separated from his parents while growing up in Laos during the years of terrible unrest that followed the Vietnam War" and was later reunited with them in the United States.

In late July, he helped prepare food for rock star Bono and the band U2, in town for a concert at TCF Bank Stadium.

Phanthavong, who went by Pet (pronounced Bet), was "the soul of True Thai, the one person I could always depend on to put quality first," Fieser added.

Roeske said authorities were alerted to the accident by a passerby who reported seeing "a man lying on the ramp."

Authorities had yet to hear from any witnesses to the crash, he added. Anyone with information is urged to call the patrol at 651-582-1511.

Staff writer Anthony Lonetree contributed to this report. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482