10 Americans Among 12 Dead In Costa Rica Plane Crash

(CNN) — A small plane crash Sunday (Dec. 31) in northwest Costa Rica killed 12 people, including 10 US citizens, officials 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. There were no survivors.

Costa Rica’s Ministry of Public Security posted several images of the wreckage on its official Facebook page, showing the plane engulfed in flames in a wooded area, with smoke billowing from charred rubble.

Hours before crash, winds forced plane to change course

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

Authorities said they were focusing on recovering the victims’ bodies and would begin an investigation into the cause of the crash first thing Monday (Jan. 1).

The plane took off from the Punta Islita Airport at 12:10 p.m. Sunday, bound for Costa Rica’s capital of 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.

One of the pilots who died in the crash was the cousin of Costa Rican ex-President Laura Chinchilla, the former leader said on her Twitter account.

The Costa Rica Star reports the deceased are:

    1. Amanda Geissler
    2. Thibault Astruc
    3. Charles Palmer
    4. Bruce Steinberg
    5. Irene Steinberg
    6. Matthew Steinberg
    7. William Steinberg
    8. Zachary Steinberg
    9. Leslie Weiss
    10. Sherry Wuu

The two crew members deceased were both Costa Rican:

Pilot Juan Manuel Retana Chinchilla (Ex Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla’s cousin) and co-pilot Ema Lucía Ramos Calderón.

The Huffington Post reports a New York family of five who had been vacationing in Costa Rica was reportedly killed in the crash. Bruce Steinberg, Irene Steinberg, Matthew Steinberg, William Steinberg, and Zachary Steinberg were identified among the deceased. Bruce Steinberg is an nationally recognized and respected extremity surgeons.

Facebook photo.