Jeff Kurtzman was one of 17 people at the training program who tested positive for the coronavirus

By Georgia Slater
July 25, 2020 07:30 PM
Advertisement

A Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant has died from the novel coronavirus one month after attending the airline's in-person training event.

Jeff Kurtzman was one of 17 people who tested positive for the virus after attending the training course in Honolulu in June, according to NBC News.

After the 60-year-old returned home to Los Angeles, he tested positive for the coronavirus and was admitted to the hospital, Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram wrote in an email, local news outlet KHON2 reported.

Weeks later, on July 21, Kutzman died of complications from the virus.

"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 wrote in his email, according to KHON2.

"We have strengthened the mandates and protocols governing how we interact with each other at our facilities, and I urge us all to practice the utmost vigilance," Ingram wrote.

According to the Hawaii Department of Health, social distancing at the event was "nonexistent" and masks were optional.

Some of the employees who tested positive for the virus went on to expose eight household members and cause an additional 20 cases at two Hawaii recreational gyms, the department told NBC News.

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty

Kurtzman, who worked for the airline since 1986, recently told friend Connie Florez that the training course "got a little lax on the second day, 'but I kept my mask on. I don't want to get sick,' " according to NBC Los Angeles.

"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 told the outlet. "Really, we’ve lost an angel."

"Jeff was a loving, generous, and kind man, and a rock in my life," friend Vic Gerami wrote on Facebook. "I cannot even begin to comprehend this loss, but I want to share about his passing with the countless people who love and respect him."

Hawaiian Airlines told NBC News that they have resumed training with stricter rules on face masks and social distancing. "All of our instructors have been tested, and the approximately 60 employees who have been through recent training were asked to self-quarantine and monitor their health,” the airline said.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.