Flight attendant in Hawaiian Airlines training cluster dies of coronavirus

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Updated: Jul. 22, 2020 at 2:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant who participated in an illness-stricken training session in Honolulu last month has died of complications from the coronavirus, Hawaii News Now has learned.

Jeff Kurtzman, a Los Angeles-based flight attendant who joined the company in 1986, passed away Tuesday night in California, according to Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram.

Ingram sent an email to Hawaiian Airlines employees on Wednesday, saying Kurtzman had ‘become well known to his In-Flight colleagues for his passion for discovering new places, people and cultures’ and was admired for his ‘terrific sense of humor and knack for easy conversation.'

“He embodied the values of aloha and malama that we hold dear,” Ingram said in the email.

“Our Flight Attendant union is heartbroken with the loss of our flying partner who is well-respected, loved, and a long-time part of our flying family,” said Joni Kashiwai, AFA-CWA president at Hawaiian Airlines in a statement.

The union also says it’s “rededicating ourselves to fight for safety in the skies and throughout aviation.”

Multiple flight attendants tell Hawaii News Now that Kurtzman had participated in the training sessions in Honolulu in late June, which ultimately resulted in at least 24 people ― including 16 staff members ― contracting coronavirus, the state Department of Health said earlier this month.

Health officials said the training sessions are also linked to 20 cases at 2 unnamed gyms.

At least one other Hawaiian Airlines employee has been hospitalized with the coronavirus, a company spokesperson said Wednesday. Coworkers say that individual also attended the company’s training sessions and has been in a Honolulu ICU since mid July.

One of the of the flight attendants who attended the training sessions told Hawaii News Now a couple of flight attendants attended classes feeling under the weather.

“Initially classes started out in compliance with seating 6 to 9 feet apart in the classroom setting. However during the course of the day it became obvious that there was not enough conscious effort to sanitize the entire work areas.”

“Several areas throughout the day became ‘shared’ areas making for a bad end result,” the employee added.

Training sessions are often held in mock cabins and involve close quarters and simulated emergency situations.

The health officials had said masks were not required in the classes, but since the cluster, Hawaiian Airlines has said masks are now mandatory along with other stricter safety protocols like smaller classes and more frequent cleaning.

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