Cool under pressure and a consummate professional, Dave Linner couldn't help but gush when it came to his baby daughter.
"He was pretty much the proudest father in the world," said Jamie Neault, a close friend and colleague of Linner's. "He'd carry her around everywhere with a big smile on his face and an even bigger smile on hers. She knew he was showing her off."
Linner, the program director of Yampa Valley Air Ambulance and one of its flight nurses, was a different man after the birth of his daughter, Abigail, nearly 11 months ago.
"When he had his little girl in his arms, nothing could stop him," friend J.J. Ross said. "He was such a proud father."
Sadly, Linner won't hold his proudest achievement again. The 36-year-old died Tuesday evening when a Yampa Valley Air Ambulance flight crashed en route to Rawlins, Wyo. Linner also is survived by his wife, Laurel.
Originally from Minnesota, Linner lived and worked in Denver and the Vail Valley before moving to Steamboat Springs several years ago. It didn't take long for him to call the Yampa Valley home.
"He loved Steamboat," Neault said. "It was pretty much his permanent home."
Linner worked for a time as a staff nurse at Yampa Valley Medical Center, where he met and befriended Ross, an emergency medical technician.
"I was young and he kind of took me under his wing," Ross said Thursday. Ross and others quickly learned that Linner was dedicated to his profession, eager to help others and a calming presence in a stressful atmosphere.
A good listener who was sympathetic to the problems experienced by others, Linner "could tell if something was bothering you, and he'd ask to help," Ross said. "He had a passion for helping people."
Linner recently became an active member of Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue in addition to his duties as program director for the air ambulance service.
"He was really good at his job," Neault said. "He really cared for his patients."
Working for the air ambulance service provided Linner a new and challenging opportunity.
"I think he enjoyed the freedom of care and the problem-solving aspect," Ross said about Linner's work with the flight program. "He liked the challenge of it all."
A flight medic during the Desert Storm conflict, Linner had a wonderful sense of humor and a penchant for playing practical jokes, friends said.
"He never seemed to have any enemies, unless it was someone who had just received one of his practical jokes," Neault said.
Linner was particularly fond of popping a set of "Billy Bob teeth" into his mouth on special occasions, Vail-area friend Pete Peil said.
"He had the type of personality where you couldn't help but like the guy," said Cindy Maddox, co-owner of Mountain Flight Service.
And he had the rare ability to consistently one-up his friends.
"He always had a comeback line," Ross said. "If you thought you got him good, he'd get you better."
Linner enjoyed hunting, skiing, snowshoeing and hiking, among the other outdoor activities that kept him busy in his free time. He and Laurel also shared a love for Harley Davidson motorcycles, often taking extended rides together, including a recent trip to Alaska.
The doting father, dedicated professional and caring friend will be missed immensely, those who knew him said Thursday.
"The world's going to be smaller now that Davey Linner isn't in it," Peil said.