LINCOLN, R.I. (AP) – A driver died Friday afternoon when his car crashed through an entrance at Lincoln High School and burst into flames, witnesses said.

Police and school officials would not identify the victim, citing the ongoing investigation into the accident that scorched a side entrance.

The students had been dismissed about an hour before the crash and none were injured, Superintendent Georgia Fortunado said.

“The fire was pretty intense, and we’re not able to identify the body,” Lincoln Police Chief Brian Sullivan said. A blackened sedan was covered with a blue tarp and towed away from the scene Friday evening as a few remaining onlookers watched.

School secretary Carmel Mendoza told reporters that she and another employee tried to pull the man from the burning car after it crashed. She retreated after spotting a pool of gasoline.

Mendoza said the driver was a special education teacher’s aide who looked distraught when she saw him leaving the building minutes before.

The Providence Journal reported on its Web site Friday that the car was registered to Jay Paul and that he had been a listed in 2006 as substitute teacher at the school.

When reached by phone by The Associated Press, a man who confirmed he was Jay Paul’s father passed the phone to another man, who said politely, “We don’t know the details” and declined to comment further.

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash, which startled bystanders and staff still inside the building.

“I smelled gasoline,” Alexandra Caluori, a teenage witness, told WJAR-TV. “I looked and I saw a car in front of the school – it crashed in front – in flames.”

Counselors have been called in to assist any of the 1,100 students at the high school who may need help, Fortunato said. All extracurricular activities scheduled at the school for the weekend were canceled.

An autopsy will be conducted Saturday, when police are expected to confirm the man’s identity.


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