10 US citizens, 2 locals killed in Costa Rica plane crash

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Costa Rica’s Public Safety Ministry photo shows people standing at the site of a plane crash near in Punta Islita, Guanacaste, Costa Rica, on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. | Costa Rica’s Public Safety Ministry via AP

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — A plane carrying 10 U.S. citizens and two local crewmembers crashed in a wooded area, killing all aboard Sunday, Costa Rica’s government said.

The Public Safety Ministry posted photographs and video of the crash site showing burning wreckage of the plane in Guanacaste, northwest Costa Rica.

Authorities said Sunday evening that so far they had only a list of passengers provided by the airline and were awaiting official confirmation of their identities.

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

Costa Rica’s Civil Aviation press office shows the site of a plane crash in Punta Islita, Guanacaste, Costa Rica, on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. | Costa Rica’s Civil Aviation press office via AP

Costa Rica’s Civil Aviation press office shows the site of a plane crash in Punta Islita, Guanacaste, Costa Rica, on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. | Costa Rica’s Civil Aviation press office via AP

Rabbi Jonathan Blake of the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale said the Steinbergs were involved in philanthropy and local Jewish groups. “They will be deeply missed,” he told the New York Post.

At a news conference, Enio Cubillo, director of Costa Rica Civil Aviation, said the Nature Air charter flight took off just after noon Sunday from Punta Islita and was headed for the capital of San Jose when it crashed.

Cubillo said the cause was under investigation.

He identified the pilot as Juan Manuel Retana and described him as very experienced. Former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said via Twitter that Retana was her cousin.

The same plane had arrived in Punta Islita on Sunday morning from San Jose and was delayed in landing by strong winds, Cubillo said.

Nature Air did not respond to phone and email messages.

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