Firefighter, teen die in Grand Lake avalanche
December 28, 2008
GRAND LAKE, Colo. ” A firefighter from Larkspur was trying to rescue a teenager on his snowmobile when both were buried in avalanche near Grand Lake Saturday.
One other person in the group of snowmobilers escaped.
Brian Kopp, 38, had turned back to help his young friend, 19-year-old Arvada resident Mark Goetz, when he was also caught by the slide near Grand Lake, according to South Metro Fire spokeswoman Becky O’Guin.
Friends described Kopp as a hero who had a passion for helping others.
Fellow firefighter Mike Porter said Kopp was also an expert snow mobile operator. “He was very well versed in snow conditions,” Porter said. “It’s hard to wrap my mind around this because I know he knew it was dangerous up there.”
Porter said Kopp and the Goetz family would frequently go on snowmobile outings, leaving early and returning late at night. And that was the plan Saturday.
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But it was clear the post-Christmas outing had turned into a tragedy when a Douglas County Sheriff’s deputy showed up at the Kopp family home in Larkspur Saturday night, Porter said.
Beyond his passion for snowmobiles, Kopp was the father of 11-year-old twins, Alan and Elli.
“The guy was full-throttle, all the time, in everything he did,” Porter said. “And he loved being a dad from the start. He loved his kids with every ounce of his being.”
The Grand County sheriff’s office said the avalanche occurred Saturday afternoon as the four Colorado residents were snowmobiling near Gravel Mountain in Grand County.
Kopp and Goetz were declared dead at the scene.
Kopp is survived by his wife Jennifer; son Alan, 11, daughter Elli, 11, his parents, a brother; a sister, three stepbrothers and two stepsisters, according to South Metro Fire.
Recent snows and winds have raised the risk of avalanches in parts of Colorado’s mountains. The risk near Grand Lake, on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park, and much of the high country is rated as considerable. The avalanche danger in the central Sawatch Range is slightly higher.