HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaiian Airlines confirmed that one of their senior Los Angeles-based flight attendants has died due to COVID-19 on Tuesday night, July 21.
According to an email from the company’s president and CEO Peter Ingram, Jeff Kurtzman tested positive for the virus in California earlier this month.
A spokesperson with the company said that Kurtzman attended a recent flight attendant training at the Honolulu headquarters. That training linked to a cluster of COVID-19 cases.
Kurtzman joined the Hawaiian Airlines team in 1986 and “…over the past three decades had become well known to his in-Flight colleagues for his passion for discovering new places, people and cultures; his terrific sense of humor and knack for easy conversation; and his caring heart. He embodied the values of aloha and malama that we hold dear,” Ingram said.
“I’ve known Jeff for about 32 years right when he started at Hawaiian Airlines,” said longtime friend Connie Florez.
Connie Florez didn’t work with Kurtzman, but says she’s always considered him to be a hanai brother. She also says he was the nicest guy you could ever meet.
“Jeff Kurtzman is the kind of guy you would want as your best friend. He would take the shirt off his back for you. He would see a homeless guy on the side of the road and I want to go out and get food for that person to help them.”
Florez says he was excited to return to Hawaii for his annual training. It was the last week of June.
“It was my birthday on the 25th and he said, ‘Okay, when I finish I’ll call on you, come by and pick me up and I’ll go get some fish tacos.”
He returned to California the next day. Shortly thereafter, Florez learned of the cluster of positive COVID-19 cases associated with the training class he was in.
“And he was in the hospital with COVID pneumonia. Since July 4, he got in there and I was just a few days later.”
She says while hospitalized he was excited he had turned the corner and was getting better. And then it turned the other way.
“He called to say, ‘I love you.’ We went back-and-forth and I said, ‘I’m praying for you. We’re all praying for you to pull through.”
“And then I didn’t hear from him for a while. I kept texting over and over telling him we love him,” she said. “Hawaii has lost a beautiful man.”
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