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.
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