An officer with the Altoona Area School District and Tyrone police departments is being remembered for his work with children following his sudden death Sunday.
Blair County Coroner Patricia Ross said an autopsy Monday showed Christopher Amerine, 44, died of a heart attack. He was pronounced dead at UPMC Altoona Sunday afternoon after collapsing during a basketball game.
A physically fit husband and father of two young children, Amerine suddenly collapsed while playing basketball at the Sixth Ward Center in Altoona.
His teammates sprang into action, running to his side and calling for an ambulance.
"He was in incredible shape," said Doug Pfeffer, who was on the basketball court when Amerine collapsed. Pfeffer was in the hospital 20 minutes later when doctors said there was nothing more they could do to save him.
Pfeffer, a probation officer for Altoona Area School District, has been friends with Amerine since 1986.
"He was fun to be around. And his kids came first; Anything for his kids," Pfeffer said.
Pfeffer knew that he
wouldn't see Amerine at a golf outing or basketball game if his children had an event they were participating in. He said Amerine rearranged his work schedule to be at his children's baseball games and dance recitals.
"He was devoted to his kids and family and just a good friend," Pfeffer said.
Amerine's positive impact as a policeman in the Altoona Area School District will be missed by students faculty and staff.
Altoona Area spokeswoman Paula Foreman released a statement on behalf of the district: "Officer Chris Amerine embodied a complete law enforcement officer. He was dedicated to his family, his job and took great pride in working with Altoona Area School District students.
"His career with the Altoona Area School District began as a greeter at Roosevelt Junior High School. Upon the expansion of the AASD Police Services Department, Officer Amerine was hired as a school police officer. It was Officer Amerine's self-motivation, work ethic and devotion to training that drove him to further his career by obtaining his Act 120 Certification through the Municipal Police Training Academy offered at the Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center. He was always looking for ways to improve himself as a police officer in order that he could better serve those around him.
"As a school district police officer, Amerine enjoyed his special trips to the elementary schools especially Baker Elementary where his son attended. It was during these visits where he had the opportunity to interact directly with students. His greatest source of pride was interacting with his daughter at the Altoona Area Junior High School.
"Officer Amerine had a unique way of bringing life and levity to any gathering. He took pride in his work, holding others to the same standards and expectations he set for himself. But most importantly, was the role model he provided as a husband and father to his wife and children. They were his motivation for his career. His dedication to serving his family, the Altoona community, the Altoona School District and the Tyrone community is one that will not be easily replaced."
In large part because of his track record of working with youth, Tyrone police Chief John Romeo said he hired Amerine in May of 2012 and was brought on board as a part-time officer. Amerine worked between 50 and 60 shifts as a Tyrone officer and was well thought of by his fellow officers, Romeo said.
"He was big in community service, and he liked working with kids," Romeo said. "He was a good officer."
Funeral arrangements are pending at Santella Funeral Home. A complete obituary will be in Wednesday's Mirror.
Mirror Staff Writer Russ O'Reilly is at 946-7435. Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock contributed to this story.