A Los Angeles flight attendant has died from complications of COVID-19 and sixteen of his Hawaiian Airlines colleagues are sick from the virus.
An investigation is now underway into the cluster of cases possibly linked to an in-person training session in Hawaii.
Friends said Jeff Kurtzman loved air travel and adventure and that he was grateful his job as a Hawaiian airlines flight attendant since 1986 gave him both.
"He wanted to see more of the world, and he was an avid photographer, so he loved that," Connie Florez, long-time friend, said.
Connie Florez told NBC4 she was thrilled when her long-time friend, who grew up in Downey, came to Honolulu for work training. It happened to be her 60th birthday.
"He had told us how was the training class when we were having our dinner at diamond head. He said some of them got a little lax on the second day, but I kept my mask on. I don’t want to get sick," Florez said.
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Several days after Kurtzman returned home to California, he ended up in the hospital with COVID-19. Hawaiian Airlines confirms Kurtzman was one of seventeen of its employees who attended the in-person training in late June and all have tested positive for coronavirus. Florez said even before his death Tuesday Kurtzman was worried about others.
"He’s such a beautiful man. He just kept apologizing. 'I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. I know you must be scared,'" Florez said.
She told him, "We’re good, we’re negative, we're okay, but you’re not okay."
A statement from Hawaiian Airlines’ CEO said Kurtzman tested positive for the virus in California earlier this month. A spokesperson said they don’t know when or where the infections occurred.
The airlines said it has strengthened protocols on how they interact with each other and that the training was an FAA required course. Florez said Kurtzman did not express concerns about going to the training, that he was just happy to see his friends and colleagues again.
"He would always say I care so much for other people, it’s almost at a fault. I would say no, we just need more people like you. So really we’ve lost an angel,'" Florez said.