New York family of 5 among 12 killed in Costa Rica plane crash

COSTA RICA – A New York couple and their three sons were among 12 people killed when a small plane crashed in Costa Rica on Sunday, according to a statement from a rabbi in Scarsdale.

Bruce and Irene Steinberg, and their three children, Zachary, William, and Matthew were congregants at the town’s Westchester Reform Temple, said Rabbi Jonathan Blake in a statement posted on Facebook.

“This tragedy hits our community very hard. Bruce, Irene and their children have been devoted members of WRT since 2001.” the statement said.

The Facebook post does not include the ages of the deceased family members. It says the Steinbergs were active in Jewish organizations in the community and were “cherished members” of the Sunningdale Country Club in Scarsdale.

Costa Rican officials said 10 of the 12 victims in Sunday’s crash were US citizens, and confirmed that the Steinbergs were among the dead. Other US citizens killed included a family of four — Ari, Hannah, Leslie and Mitchell Weiss — and Amanda Geissler, according to the a list published by Costa Rica Civil Aviation and obtained from the airline in charge of the plane.

Images show burning wreckage in wooded area

A spokesperson for the US State Department confirmed the deaths of “multiple US citizens.”

“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 spokesperson said.

The single-engine turboprop’s two Costa Rican pilots also died in the crash, President Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera said in a statement posted on social media. One of the pilots was the cousin of Costa Rican ex-President Laura Chinchilla, the former leader said on her Twitter account.

Costa Rica’s Ministry of Public Security posted several images of the aftermath of the crash on its official Facebook page, showing smoke billowing from burning wreckage in a wooded area.

Hours before crash, winds forced change of course

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash, which happened early Sunday afternoon in Nandayure, a region in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province.

Authorities said Sunday they were focusing on recovering the victims’ bodies and would begin an investigation into the cause of the crash first thing Monday.

The plane took off from the Punta Islita Airport at 12:10 p.m. Sunday, bound for Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose. Officials received reports of the crash around 12:20 p.m., 10 minutes after takeoff, CNN affiliate Teletica reported, citing civil aviation authorities.

Earlier Sunday, heavy winds had forced the plane’s pilots to land at another airport and delay their arrival in Punta Islita, Teletica said.

President vows to help victims’ families

Costa Rica’s President expressed his condolences on Twitter.

“The government vows to do everything necessary to help the victims’ family members in whatever they need in this difficult moment and sends them the solidarity of all the Costa Rican people,” Solis said.

The private aircraft, a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan registered as TI-BEI, was part of Nature Air’s fleet, officials said. Officials from the airline could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Caravan is a popular utility aircraft that’s routinely used for carrying passengers or cargo.

More than 2,500 have been built since the aircraft entered service in 1984, according to the Aviation Safety Network.