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Paramedic Always Busy, Adventurous

LONE TREE, Colo. -- A South Metro Fire Rescue paramedic killed in an avalanche was trying to help another snowmobiler when a wall of snow collapsed, burying them both.

Brian Kopp, 38, of Larkspur, an eight-year veteran of South Metro, and Mark Goetz, 19, of Arvada died in the Grand County avalanche Saturday.

"Mark had gotten into trouble on the hill, and Brian turned to help him when he himself got caught in the slide. As a fireman, that was his thought, to help others," said Michael Porter, another South Metro paramedic, who helped to train Kopp for his job.

The Grand County Sheriff's Office said the men who died were in a group of four snowmobilers.

Goetz and Kopp rode up a steep slope between Little Gravel and Gravel Mountain where they got stuck, according to the sheriff's office.

Goetz's father, Chuck Goetz, 59, rode his snowmobile above them, planning to come down and help free them. When he did, an avalanche swept all three down the mountain.

Chuck Goetz escaped the slide. Mark Goetz and Kopp died at the scene.

The Goetz family did not return calls for comment Sunday.

Harry Than, 32, of Thornton was also with the group. He couldn't be reached for comment.

Chuck Goetz told Kopp's family that Kopp had gone back to help his son, Porter said.

Kopp started his career with South Metro Fire Rescue in 2000 as a firefighter and later became a paramedic. He was studying to be a lieutenant with his fire company, said Battalion Chief Bob Herdt.

"That was one of his goals," a tearful Herdt told member of the media at South Metro's Fire Station 34, where Kopp worked.

Kopp was an avid snowmobiler who always checked on avalanche conditions before going into the backcountry, Herdt said.

"That is an area that he has snowmobiled 200 times," Porter said of Kopp. "He knew the area like the back of his hand."

Porter said he remembers his friend as "incredibly adventurous," a man who wasn't afraid to take a chance.

Kopp, who also worked as a general contractor, started at least a dozen businesses, Porter said. Among them was an Express Lube that he sold when he went to work for South Metro.

As a general contractor, he built a number of custom homes, and his Colorado Home Design provides residential design and drafting services. "He always had to be busy," Porter said.

Business wasn't the only thing he was willing to jump into.

"People will say, 'Oh, I want to learn how to fly.' He learned to fly and then he bought an airplane," Porter said.

"Brian always tried to be the best at whatever he did," Porter said, "including being a paramedic."

Kopp is survived by his wife, Jennifer, 37; children Alan, 11, and Elli, 11; his parents; his brother; his sister; three stepbrothers, and two stepsisters. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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