KURTZ, Alexandra "Allie"

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Allie Kurtz
Allie Kurtz at the Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Center
Allie Kurtz

KURTZ, Alexandra "Allie" (1993-2019), 26-year-old crew member, galley cook and victim of the September 2, 2019 fire aboard the dive boat, Conception, at Santa Cruz Island. She quit her corporate job at Paramount Pictures to go back to school. Kurtz was interested in both environmental studies and marine biology. A job working on dive boats at Truth Aquatics was an ideal job for her, allowing her to go to school and still be by the water, dive, and to be with people.

Kurtz, who grew up in Illinois, had recently been promoted from the galley to deckhand on August 28. She was sleeping below deck with the other passengers, available to take care of their needs, when the fire broke out. The five other crew members were in a different area of the boat and survived.

Kurtz graduated from Cincinnati's School for Creative and Performing Arts before moving to Los Angeles to work for Paramount Pictures. She then moved to Santa Barbara to pursue her love of diving. A GoFundMe page set up by a family friend on behalf of the Kurtz family included a message shared by Kurtz's father. In the message, Robert Kurtz says: "As the news has said there was one missing crew member. That crew member was my beautiful daughter Allie. She did not survive the explosion and I am now in Santa Barbara, CA having to provide DNA so we can identify her, and lay her to rest." Allie had a younger sister Olivia, and brother, Zac.

NTSB 4.5.4 Second Deckhand

“The 26-year-old second deckhand had been working on the Conception for about a week when the accident occurred. It was her second voyage aboard the vessel. She did not hold, nor was she required to hold, a merchant mariner credential. Prior to joining the Conception crew, she had worked for a couple months as a galleyhand on another Truth Aquatics vessel. The second deckhand’s duties were similar to the first deckhand. According to other crewmembers, she was being trained on the various duties of the position during the previous and accident voyages. She was also designated as the safety diver, requiring her to stand by with a wetsuit on while divers were in the water. As such, she held an advanced open water diver certification.”

In the News~

September 3, 2019 [cincinatti.com]: “Cincinnati mom goes to Los Angeles to ID daughter lost in boat fire. A Cincinnati mother flew out to Los Angeles Tuesday after a boat fire presumably killed 34 people, NBC reported. Cherie McDonough was at the scene to help authorities determine if her daughter, Allie Kurtz, 25 [26], was on the trip, NBC News reported. McDonough believes that her daughter is one of the missing and presumed dead victims. "She was following her dream," McDonough said to NBC. Cincinnati's School for Creative and Performing Arts confirmed Tuesday night that Kurtz was an alumna. Kurtz attended the Cincinnati Public School her senior year and graduated in 2011, a school representative said. "The SCPA family extend our deepest condolences to her family," the School for Creative and Performing Arts said in a Facebook message. Records show McDonough and Kurtz shared an address in Westwood.”

September 5, 2019 [abc7chicago.com]: “Woman from north suburbs only crew member to die in California boat fire. SKOKIE, Ill. (WLS) -- A woman who grew up in the north suburbs was the only crew member who died in the deadly dive boat fire off the coast of Los Angeles that killed 34 people. Crew members said they tried to save those sleeping below deck before smoke and flames forced them to abandon ship. One of those left behind was Allie Kurtz, whose body was identified through DNA. Her heartbroken family, who still reside in Skokie, are struggling to come to grips with their loss. Allie, who was 26, loved the ocean. Her family said like the water she loved she was beautiful and deep, her life like a joyful tide that washed over them. "It's hard," said her grandmother Doris Lapporte through tears. Allie's grandparents live in Skokie and are grieving her loss aboard the Conception. She was the lone crew member below deck as the boat was engulfed in flames. "Did she suffer?" Doris wondered. "Did any of those people suffer? That's where I'm having a lot of nightmares about." Allie grew up in Evanston and Northbrook, and loved Navy Pier and concerts at Millennium Park. But she always returned to the ocean, leaving a coveted job at a movie studio to work on a dive boat. "In a way it's a loss to the world to have someone like Allie gone," said Allen Lapporte, grandfather. Her father and sister traveled to California to bring her home. "She was really strong, and she also taught me to follow my dreams," said Olivia Kurtz, sister. Her family plans to return her to the sea. As she wrote years ago in a poem:

The Ocean drifts upon the shore,
And new life gets up and is about to soar.
It crashes and raves,
So begins a new day.
And the ocean sways
And life begins in a strange new array
But in the end everyone goes back
To the ocean for sure.

Allie's grandparents said she was studying to be a marine biologist. They last saw her three weeks ago on her 26th birthday.

September 6, 2019 [Chicago Sun Times]: “Northbrook native among 34 killed in California boat fire; left job in Hollywood to live her dream, work on the ocean. “She had a zest for life like you just couldn’t imagine,” Skokie native Doris Lapporte said of her granddaughter, Allie Kurtz. As an awestruck kid aboard a tall ship at Navy Pier, Allie Kurtz looked up at her grandmother, Doris Lapporte, and told her that one day she’d be a pirate. The declaration came after hours of following around members of the boat’s crew, who were dressed as pirates, and asking them how she, too, could become one. Last week, nearly two decades later, Lapporte received a text that made her smile. “I’ve achieved my dream of being a pirate,” it read.” That was her very, very last message to me,” Lapporte said Friday. Kurtz, 26, who grew up in Northbrook, had recently been promoted from working in the galley as a cook aboard a boat that took groups on multi-day scuba diving trips off the coast of Southern California, to the position of deckhand on another dive boat — the Conception.

During the predawn hours Monday, the Conception caught fire and Kurtz was among the 34 people on board who were killed. Her remains were identified through DNA testing Thursday. Her family had hoped she was among the five crew members above deck who escaped as flames engulfed the boat. “But she was the one crew member who was assigned to be below with the passengers to attend to any of their needs,” Lapporte said. “Allie was just thrilled when she was promoted,” Lapporte said, adding her granddaughter had been building up her experience as a diver but had not yet reached the point where she was part of the dive crew. She had the heart of an adventurer and “died doing what she loved,” Lapporte said through tears from her Skokie home as she sorted through photos and poems her granddaughter had written about the ocean. After high school, Kurtz embarked on a solo backpacking trip across Europe that made her family nervous for her safety. “The only reason she never ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, is because she lost her passport,” Lapporte said, admitting she was thankful the document went missing at the time. Life soon landed Kurtz in London, where she studied theater before leaving school to work with a company that produced reality television shows. She returned to the United States and took a job working on movie trailers for Paramount Pictures, Lapporte said. Kurtz left that job to work at the dive tour company, Truth Aquatics, a few months ago, Lapporte said. The ocean had been the source of a lifelong fascination for Kurtz, who’d also been taking environmental classes at UCLA with the goal of studying marine biology. She also volunteered to care for wounded sea lions, Lapporte said. Kurtz had recently received a work visa to pursue a job in Australia. She planned to leave in a few months, when the high season for tour diving concluded, Lapporte said. “At 26, it’s just the beginning ... and she had a zest for life like you just couldn’t imagine,” she said. Kurtz attended Glenbrook North High School. Her father, Robert Kurtz, was in California on Friday with others who were close to his daughter, Lapporte said. Allie Kurtz has a brother, Zac, 23, and a sister, Olivia, 20. “We’ve been getting messages from people all over the world, some who just knew her just a couple days on a boat. Her love of life was just contagious. She touched so many people,” Lapporte said. Family members plan to scatter her ashes at sea.”

September 6, 2019 [Hollywood Reporter]: “Hollywood Mourns Colleagues Lost in California Boat Fire...Entertainment-industry co-workers remember special effects designer Charles "Chuck" McIlvain and former creative ad manager Allie Kurtz as "inspirational" and "the most good- natured human being I’ve ever met." Among the victims of the deadly Labor Day fire that killed 33 people aboard the dive boat Conception were at least two people with ties to Hollywood, leaving their friends and former co-workers reeling from the loss. As the week ended, their family members and friends gathered in L.A. at a Thursday evening vigil called "Heal the Bay," at the aquarium under the Santa Monica pier, to mourn their loss and search for answers, while social media feeds lit up with remembrances and outpourings of grief... The Santa Barbara-based Conception caught fire on Labor Day, while it lay at anchor off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, 20 miles off the mainland. Five crew members escaped to safety while a sixth, the Ohio native Kurtz, remained below with the passengers, unable to do so. Flames consumed the vessel within minutes, preventing the crew from effecting any rescue. Kurtz, who began at Paramount in 2014, worked her way up from an executive’s assistant to a creative ad manager. She helped develop campaigns for the Mission Impossible movies, and worked on the marketing teams and developed TV spots. It’s been reported that Kurtz left Hollywood to pursue her dream of being a dive instructor. But according to former colleagues, her reasons were more nuanced. “She didn’t leave Paramount to just be a dive instructor,” said Brian Pianko, Paramount’s executive vp worldwide creative advertising and Kurtz’s close friend and former boss, “She literally left to save the world.” Pianko says Kurtz told him she had plans to pursue a graduate degree in marine biology so that she could work on saving reefs. Kurtz was a volunteer at Reef Check California, an environmental NGO that helps monitor the health of the state’s coastlines, and spent free time exploring her adopted state’s marine byways with her boyfriend of several years. According to family and friends, Kurtz had a thirst for adventure. After graduating high school in Ohio, Kurtz traveled Europe, studied and worked in Paris briefly before returning to the U.S., settling in California to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

Pianko hired her on the spot when she applied at Paramount, and soon Kurtz was being fast-tracked to a promising career in advertising. At Paramount she participated in a one-on-one company mentoring program called “Kindergarten to Cap and Gown,” where she spent time with elementary school children helping them with school work or simply being a friend. She also volunteered in the company’s Viacommunity day of service. Pianko says Kurtz was beloved by everyone in the company, from people in senior positions to the UPS driver who delivered packages, who was a frequent recipient of hugs from Kurtz. Apart from her passion for the outdoors and for the ocean, Kurtz made a profound impression on her colleagues. “She was the most good-natured human being I’ve ever met, and it’s incredible how in her short time she brought so many people together that don’t even cross paths on a daily basis,” says Pianko. “I’m sure I’d be working for her if she stayed, she just found a greater purpose in life.”

“She was an amazing worker in general, but more than that she cared about the people around her and was friends with everyone in the office. She had a very unique style, too — and wasn’t afraid to be herself,”one of her fellow co-workers, Cynthia Dew, wrote in an email to The Hollywood Reporter. Dew recalled how Kurtz encouraged her to get a standing desk to help her back pain and went so far as to put her in touch with the right people at the company to help her. “I joked all the time that she started the standing desk epidemic in the office because after that every one had one,” says Dew, “All because of her. It’s just a small example of how she always helped make people’s experience at work better. My heart is so broken for her family and everyone impacted by this terrible tragedy.” On Thursday evening, with the scope of the tragedy beginning to sink in, an L.A. environmental group called “Heal the Bay” sponsored an evening vigil at the aquarium under Santa Monica pier to honor the victims.”