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Dailymall / News - Politics

PICTURED: Two American families killed in Costa Rican plane crash

Mitchell, 52, and Leslie Levin Weiss, 50, both of St. Petersburg, Florida, were among the 12 people who died when the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan went down, officials said.


Two American families were killed when a plane crashed in Costa Rica on New Year's Eve.

Mitchell, 52, and Leslie Levin Weiss, 50, both of St. Petersburg, Florida, died alongside their 19-year-old daughter Hannah Mae, when the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan went down, officials report.

The Philadelphia Inquirer also reports that their 16-year-old son Ari Moses Weiss, was killed in the crash.

There are conflicting reports about the death toll of the crash. Several outlets report ten Americans died along with the two Costa Rican pilots, although a total of 13 have been reported dead by various news sources.

The Steinberg family, from Westchester County, New York, Americans Amanda Rae Geissler and Gene Wing Szeto, and pilot Juan Manuel Retana - who is the cousin of former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, and copilot Emma Ramos, were also among the dead, according to the New York Post.

Strong winds were seen as a factor in the crash of a small plane in Costa Rica that killed all passengers on board and two local crew members, according to officials and witnesses.

Mitchell, 52, and Leslie Levin Weiss, 50, their 19-year-old daughter Hannah Mae, were killed in the plane crash in Costa Rica. Ari Moses Weiss, 16, has also been reported as dead after the tragedy

'It's a tragic loss,' said Rabbi Jacob Luski, of the Congregation B'Nai Israel, where the Weiss family attended. 

'I just saw the mom and the daughter last week after Friday evening services,' Luski said. 'They will be sorely missed. It's a real tragedy for their families and the community at large.'

Mitchell Weiss was a radiology specialist in Clearwater, Florida, after studying at medical school in Philadelphia while his wife was a pediatrician who practiced in Tampa. Their daughter Hannah was a student at Columbia University.

The family had relocated from Philadelphia to St. Petersburg, Florida, about 12 years ago.

It is not clear but it is presumed Ari Weiss was with them when the plane went down on New Year's Eve. 

Family and friends of the Steinbergs were still in shock about the loss of the family of five. 

'They were wonderful people. We need a whole world of people like them,' relative Dianne Steinberg, 76, told New York Daily News.

Costa Rica's government said a plane with 10 Americans, including a family of five, and two local pilots crashed in a wooded area. Local media identified one family as Bruce Steinberg, Irene Steinberg, Matthew Steinberg, William Steinberg and Zachary Steinberg (all pictured)

Pilot Juan Manuel Retana (left)- who is the cousin of former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, was also among the dead. Emma Ramos (right) was the copilot

Bruce, who had just turned 50, and his wife Irene Steinberg, and their three sons; Matthew, William and Zachary were all killed, Diario Las Americos reported.

Tamara Jacobson, Bruce's sister, wrote on Facebook: 'We are in utter shock and disbelief right now.' 

The family were very active in their local Jewish community.

Scott Richman, Director of American Jewish Committee Westchester said: 'The entire AJC family mourns the loss of Irene Steinberg and her beautiful family.'

Irene, 51, served on the committee for more than a decade and was joined by her oldest son William who interned at the office last year. She was also involved with the United Jewish Appeal - Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York. 

The Public Safety Ministry posted video of the crash site showing burning wreckage

The aircraft belonged to Nature Air and crashed in Guanacaste, northwest Costa Rica

'She was a devoted leader to Jewish causes,' Richman added. 'She was particularly concerned about passing on this love of the Jewish people to the next generation.  'We are deeply saddened by this immense tragedy.'

Irene and Bruce are also said to have donated thousands of dollars to Seeds of Peace, a U.S.-based organisation which focuses on peace-building between young Israelis and Palestinians.

William, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, was also involved in Seeds of Peace, and his aunt revealed on Facebook he had been planning a career in politics.

The University of Pennsylvania's Class Board 2021 shared its condolences on Facebook. 

'We are very shocked and saddened to hear about the death of William Steinberg and his family,' the message read. 'We still cannot believe that they died so unexpectedly. Many of us knew Will very closely, he was such a wonderful person who blessed Penn with his amazing smile everyday. Together we mourn the death of a friend, a peer, and a promising scholar who would have went on to change the world.

'This tragedy hits our community very hard,' added Rabbi Jonathan Blake of the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale. 

Leslie Levin Weiss, 50,  of St. Petersburg, Florida, a physician, was killed in the crash

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.

Strong winds were seen as a factor. The plane burst into flames on impact, according to rescue officials and locals.

Costa Rica's Civil Aviation agency said the pilots had tried to land at Punta Islita earlier Sunday to get the passengers but aborted because of 'the gusts of wind.'

The aircraft was up-to-date with its certifications and had been inspected a month earlier, the agency said.

'There had been a lot wind, really strong,' one resident in the area told AFP on Monday.

She said when she and other locals arrived at the crash site, up a steep hillside, 'we couldn't see, absolutely everything was black.'

She added: 'The front part of the plane was all on fire, and the tail part was the only bit intact.'

Police and fire crews arrived within 25 minutes of the crash, which happened shortly after midday (1800 GMT), she said.

Her daughter Hannah Mae Weiss, 19, (pictured) and her brother Ari also lost their lives 

Another resident, Efrain Rojas, told the newspaper La Nacion that the plane was 'too low' after take-off.

'It did a turn to the left. For us, it looked like some sort of problem, and it was trying to get back to the runway. With the turn it did, it had one wing up vertical, and the other hit the trees,' he said.

'When we arrived, it was all in flames.... The plane, when it came down, apparently exploded, caught fire,' he said.

Cubillo said the same plane had arrived in Punta Islita on Sunday morning from San Jose and was delayed in landing by strong winds. The plane had passed a safety inspection about a month ago and was authorized to fly, Cubillo added.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Cubillo also identified the pilot as Retana and described him as very experienced. He said the tourists traveling in the aircraft were staying in a nearby hotel. The co-pilot was Emma Ramos.

Laura Chinchilla, who was president of Costa Rica from 2010 to 2014, said on Twitter that Retana was her cousin.

'A death has interrupted our family celebration. Our beloved cousin died as part of the crew of the plane that crashed in Guanacaste. Courage to his children and siblings and may he rest in peace,' she wrote in the tweet. 

'You will stay in our hearts dear #Juanmanuel Retana,' Chinchilla added.  

Officials said the plane was heading to the Juan Santamaria International Airport in Alajuela, Costa Rica, when it crashed around 12.16pm local time. 

The plane came down in a forest soon after taking off 

Laura Chinchilla, who was president of Costa Rica from 2010 to 2014, said on Twitter that her cousin, Juan Manuel Retana, one of the crew members, had died in the accident (pictured)  

The reason for the crash is unknown. The aircraft, a single-propellor Cessna 208 Caravan, came down in a mountainous area near the Pacific coastal beach town of Punta Islita

It crashed in the mountainous area of Punta Islita, which is popular with tourists, in the province of Guanacaste, about 140 miles west of the capital of San Jose.

Photos of the crash site, showed flaming wreckage strewn across the terrain. 

The private plane, that belonged to Nature Air, was a single-propellor Cessna 208 Caravan officials said.

Nature Air said in a statement that it lamented the accident, without explaining the cause. 

The flight was part of a special charter service for 20 people, relying on two planes. The first plane, carrying 10 passengers, arrived safely in San Jose at 11.40am. The second, with 10 passengers and two pilots, departed 20 minutes later.

'Regrettably this plane crashed a few minutes after taking off,' Nature Air said.

According to Nature Air's website, the airline is based in San José. 

It is the largest private charter operator in Central America and became the world's first carbon neutral airline in 2004.  

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