A Nassau Community College student and athlete died yesterday when he lost control of the car he was driving and crashed a block away from his high school alma mater in Westbury, police said.

Larry Buffalino, 19, a member of the college baseball team, and a former football and baseball star at W. Tresper Clarke High School in Westbury, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

The 2003 Nissan 350Z that Buffalino was driving east on Stewart Avenue left the road about 12:30 p.m. and struck a tree at the intersection of Stewart Avenue and Land Lane, Nassau police said.

Clarke football coach John Boyle said students were coming and going from the high school at that time, and word spread quickly about what had happened.

"Almost immediately, people recognized whose car it was," said Boyle, dean of students at the school. "The phone calls were made pretty quickly, and before you knew it, everyone was at the scene. "

School staff members, including a guidance counselor and a school psychologist, went from the school to the site to assist the dozens who were grieving at the scene of the crash.

Boyle said Buffalino was a running back and cornerback in 2004, and a two-year starter on the football team that made back-to-back playoff appearances.

"He wasn't the biggest kid, but that's what made him so special," Boyle said. "He was always trying to prove himself. He was a hard-working athlete. He wasn't the kind of person who just stepped on the field. He hit the weight room and did a lot of things to become better. "

Tom Abruscato, who was Buffalino's baseball coach at Clarke through his graduation in 2005, said he was a remarkable athlete and a remarkable person.

"He came to us in the 10th grade and he was a borderline varsity player," Abruscato said. By the time he graduated, "he was the lead-off hitter on the state championship team in 2005, playing center field. "

"As tough and hard-nosed as he was, when he gave you a hug after not seeing you for a couple of weeks ... " Abruscato said, pausing to compose himself. "... His smile and his laughter are something I won't forget. He's one of the greatest human beings I've ever coached. "