Santa Clara Water Polo Loses a Family Member

Santa Clara Water Polo Loses a Family Member

Oct. 26, 2004

Former Santa Clara men's water polo player Jeff Kopacek was killed in a bus accident in Tanzania last Tuesday as he was en route to climb Mount Kilamanjaro. Kopacek, a 2002 graduate of Santa Clara University, was 25 years old.

Eight tourists, including Kopacek, and three Tanzanians were killed in the head-on collision between the bus and a truck, which was carrying onions to Kenya. The accident occurred around 1:30 p.m. local time in Tanzania on a sealed road that linked the city of Arusha to a border town of Namanga.

Known by most that knew him as Paco, Kopacek was a Bronco team co-captain in his senior year. A water polo letterwinner from 1997-2000, Kopacek played two-meter defense for Santa Clara and earned a bachelor's degree in Mathematics in 2001.

Following his graduation from SCU, Kopacek spent time in South Korea teaching English to Korean children. He also returned to school, earning a Master's degree in Mathematics from Portland State earlier this year. The Portland, Ore. native was also an avid world traveller and surfing enthusiast.

"As with most tragedies you sometimes find yourself at a loss of words when trying to describe someone," said former teammate and friend Dan O'Connell. " Jeff was a friend to everyone and anyone that crossed his path. I have never met anyone in this world who was more concerned about the well being of his own friends and family. He never ceased to amaze me, whether as a teammate in the pool or as a friend over the years. I know Jeff passed away doing what he loved most; while travelling on another adventure in an exotic distant land many of us can only hope to visit in our lifetime."

Santa Clara alum and a friend of Kopacek, Ryan Luckin shared these thoughts about his friend.

"It is frightening to think that Jeff (Paco) almost didn't attend Santa Clara University. I can't imagine not having the chance to be friends with such an amazing person. Paco died while doing what he loved; traveling the world and experiencing life to the fullest. He'll be terribly missed, and never forgotten."