10 tourists, 2 locals killed in Costa Rica plane crash

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 January, 2018, 5:37am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 January, 2018, 11:17pm

Costa Rican investigators are looking into what caused a charter aircraft to crash in woods in the country’s northwest soon after taking off, killing the 10 US citizens and two local crew members on board.

The aircraft, a single-propeller Cessna 208 Caravan belonging to the Nature Air domestic airline, came down in a mountainous area near the Pacific coastal beach town of Punta Islita in the country’s Guanacaste peninsula, the spokesman, Carlos Hidalgo, said on his Facebook page.

“It is a private plane with 10 foreign passengers and two local crew members,” a separate security ministry statement said.

Hidalgo published images of the crash site, showing flaming wreckage strewn across the terrain.

All the bodies were burned, Hidalgo told national television station Channel 7.

“I have the deaths of the 12 occupants confirmed,” the head of Costa Rica’s civil aviation agency, Enio Cubillo, told La Nacion newspaper.

The daily gave a list of passenger names, including five who shared the same last name, suggesting they were all related.

A family in the suburbs of New York City said five of the dead Americans were relatives on holiday. 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. She also confirmed the deaths in an interview with NBC News.

Rabbi Jonathan Blake of the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale said in a statement posted on the temple’s Facebook page and emailed to Associated Press that the Steinbergs were involved in philanthropy and local Jewish groups. “This tragedy hits our community very hard,” Blake wrote.

(Video may contain distressing images)

It reported that the plane had apparently taken off from a small sealed airstrip in Punta Islita at 10.30am and crashed soon afterwards for reasons yet to be determined.

It was supposed to land at San Jose’s main Juan Santamaria airport at 10.55am.

The passengers had paid US$2,300 in total for their tickets for the short flight, La Nacion reported.

Americans are by far the biggest nationality to visit Costa Rica, a popular tourist destination, especially in December and January when they flee freezing winter conditions at home for tropical climates.

Guanacaste is a magnet for many visitors to the Central American country, featuring pristine beaches and nearby jungle.

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Nature Air is one of the small domestic airlines serving the area, typically flying tourists in a hurry to and from the capital San Jose.

This time of year is particularly busy in Costa Rica’s coastal resort areas as tourists and locals alike spend end-of-year holidays in the sun.