A plane crash in Costa Rica on 31 December claimed the lives of 10 holidaymakers from the US, including a child. The accident happened in a wooded area in the province of Guanacaste, North Pacific of Costa Rica.
Five from the Steinberg family, who died in the crash, have been identified as Bruce, Irene, Matthew, William and Zachary. They were reportedly from Scarsdale in Westchester County, New York. The other victims were Mitchell Weiss, Leslie Levin Weiss, and their daughter Hanna Mae Weiss, Amanda Rae Geissler and Gene Wing Szeto – all from the US.
Two locals – pilot Juan Manuel Retana and the co-pilot Emma Ramos – also died in the crash, The Daily Mail reported.
The Costa Rican president's office released a statement on Sunday evening, saying: "The government of Costa Rica deeply regrets the death of 10 American passengers and 2 Costa Rican pilots in an air crash of aircraft TI-BEI from the company Nature Air, which occurred midday today near Nandayure, Guanacaste."
According to reports, the crash happened just moments after takeoff from the Punta Islita Airport. Enio Cubillo, director of Costa Rica Civil Aviation, said the Nature Air charter flight was heading for the capital of San Jose when it crashed. However, the cause of the accident is still unknown.
Laura Chinchilla, the former president of Costa Rica, also expressed her condolences over the loss and identified the pilot of the plane, Retana, as her cousin. She tweeted: "A death has interrupted our family celebration. Our beloved cousin died as part of the crew of the plane that crashed in Guanacaste. Courage to his children and siblings and may he rest in peace."
"You will stay in our hearts dear #Juanmanuel Retana," she added.
The US State Department also confirmed the death of the Americans and said in a statement: "We can confirm the death of multiple U.S. citizens in an airplane crash in Costa Rica on December 31, 2017. We express our condolences to all those affected by this tragedy. We are in contact with Costa Rican aviation authorities and will continue to monitor the situation."
The doomed plane was part of a special charter service for 20 people, consisting two planes. While the first one carrying 10 passengers arrived safely in San Jose, the other one departed twenty minutes later but soon crashed.
"Regrettably this plane crashed a few minutes after taking off," Nature Air, largest private charter operator in Central America, said.