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La Roche student collapses playing hoops, dies

Michael Bird died playing the sport he loved.

Bird, a La Roche College sophomore majoring in radiologic technology, was playing a pickup basketball game with friends in the Kerr Fitness and Sports Center on Monday night when he complained of not feeling well, said Ken Service, vice president of institutional relations at the McCandless school.

Paramedics were called when Bird, 19, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., collapsed at 10:19 p.m.

He was taken to UPMC Passavant in McCandless and died at 11:26 p.m., a spokeswoman for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said.

An autopsy showed that Bird died of a coronary anomaly, the spokeswoman said.

"I really want to play my basketball season for him," said Chris DeCrane, a fellow sophomore from Akron.

"Me and him tried to walk onto the basketball team last year. We both got cut," said DeCrane, who made the squad this year.

DeCrane, who said Bird enjoyed playing basketball and was always trying to improve his game so that he could make the team, never let the disappointment get him down.

"He was all smiles, every single day. He was always talking to everyone," DeCrane said before attending a candlelight vigil for Bird Tuesday night in Magdalen Chapel.

Andy Bott was a resident adviser when Bird arrived on campus as a freshman.

"The first thing he asked me was where the office was for the basketball team," said Bott, a junior. "He tried hard, and I know he was probably disappointed he couldn't make the team. I respect him for his dedication to the team."

A Mass that was held for Bird at noon in Magdalen Chapel was "well-attended," Service said.

Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik celebrated Mass in the chapel Monday to welcome students back for the first day of classes.

Bird made an impression on Barbara J. O'Connor, director of the X-Ray Program at Ohio Valley Hospital in Kennedy, in the brief time she knew him from his class there.

"He was the most personable young man I ever met," O'Connor said. "I said, 'Tell your Mom she did a great job because you're just a delight.' "

Counselors are on campus to help students cope with Bird's death and "work through their grief issues," Service said.

"We're all very distraught about the situation," Service said. "It's a tragic incident, a young man losing his life so unexpectedly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones."

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