World News

New York Family of 5 Among 10 Americans Killed in Costa Rica Plane Crash

Posted December 31, 2017 11:06 p.m. EST
Updated December 31, 2017 11:09 p.m. EST

In the weeks before their family trip to Costa Rica, Bruce and Irene Steinberg of Scarsdsale, New York, told friends and family how excited they were to take their three sons on an adventure through that country’s lush forests and tropical beaches.

After visiting the Pacific coast, the Steinbergs were headed on Sunday to Costa Rica’s capital for the last stop of their trip. But the single-engine plane carrying them, five other Americans and two Costa Rican pilots crashed that afternoon into a mountain shortly after takeoff, killing everyone on board, the authorities said.

The authorities in Guanacaste, a popular region on the Pacific coast for tourists, responded to reports shortly after noon of smoke and flames rising from a wooded area near Punta Islita Airport. Emergency responders found the charred wreckage of a Cessna plane operated by the regional airline Nature Air and the burned remains of those who had been on board.

“The government of Costa Rica deeply regrets the death of 10 American passengers and two Costa Rican pilots in the aircraft crash,” Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, the country’s president, said in a Facebook post Sunday evening.

The State Department said it was aware of the crash and was working with the aviation authorities in Costa Rica. “We express our condolences to all those affected by this tragedy,” a spokeswoman said in an email.

A sister of Steinberg confirmed Sunday night in a Facebook post that her brother and his family had died in the crash. A relative who answered the phone at Steinberg’s parents’ home in Florida confirmed that the Steinbergs lived in Scarsdale, a suburb north of New York City, with their sons William, Zachary and Matthew.

“They were the kind of people you would like to have many of,” the relative said before saying she had to hang up. “They always did everything as a family.”

Aviation and security officials in Costa Rica told local news media that the cause of the crash was unknown but that the Nature Air plane encountered inclement weather Sunday when it first tried to land in Punta Islita to pick up the passengers. The plane returned to another airport before it eventually landed in Punta Islita around 11 a.m., the country’s civil aviation director told the newspaper El Mundo.

After the pilots picked up the American passengers, the plane took off for San José, the capital, which is about 140 miles east, the authorities said. Photos posted by government officials on Facebook show that the Cessna crashed several hundred yards from the end of a runway at Punta Islita Airport.

Laura Chinchilla, president of Costa Rica from 2010 to 2014, said on Twitter that her cousin was one of the crew members killed in the crash.

Costa Rica, particularly its pristine beaches and mountains on the Pacific coast, is popular with North American and European tourists. More tourists visit Costa Rica from America than any other country. Eco-tourism is a major draw, and Nature Air bills itself as the first carbon-neutral airline in the world.

In September, an American and another passenger on a Nature Air flight died when a single-engine Cessna crashed in a river in Guanacaste. Another American on the flight was injured.