SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) — Investigators are trying to determine what caused a charter aircraft to crash in woods in the Costa Rica’s northwest soon after takeoff, killing two crew members and 10 U.S. citizens, including families from New York and Florida.
The families from the New York City suburb of Scarsdale and from Belleair, Fla., accounted for nine of the dead and were part of a tour organized by Backroads, a Berkeley firm. Their American guide was the 10th U.S. victim.
A family in the suburbs of New York City said five of the dead were relatives on vacation. They identified them as Bruce and Irene Steinberg and their sons Matthew, William and Zachary, all of Scarsdale.
“We are in utter shock and disbelief right now,” Bruce Steinberg’s sister, Tamara Steinberg Jacobson, wrote on Facebook.
In St. Petersburg, Fla., Rabbi Jacob Luski of Congregation B’nai Israel said Monday that victims’ relatives had informed him that four members of his congregation were also on the plane.
“It is a tragedy that the Drs. Mitchell Weiss and Leslie Weiss and their two children, Hannah and Ari, died in that terrible crash,” he said. “They were a wonderful family who will be missed.”
In a statement Monday, Backroads spokeswoman Liz Einbinder said their employee on the flight was Amanda Geissler.
“Aboard the flight were nine Backroads guests, a Backroads Trip Leader and two flight crew members,” the statement said. “A second Nature Air flight carrying Backroads guests and another Trip Leader arrived safely in San Jose.”
Enio Cubillo, director of Costa Rica Civil Aviation, said the Nature Air charter crashed shortly after taking off from Punta Islita on a flight to the capital of San Jose. Cubillo identified the pilot as Juan Manuel Retana.