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Two NY Jewish Families Among the 12 Killed in Costa Rica Plane Crash



A screenshot from Costa Rica Today’s video of the burning wreckage. (Photo via

On Sunday, December 31, a small plane crashed in Costa Rica, killing at least 10 tourists from America and two pilots. Among the victims was a Jewish family of five from Scarsdale, as well as a student at Columbia University.

Officials said that the crash left no survivors. The single-engine Cessna was in route to the capital city of San José when it went down just after noon in a mountainous area of the Guancaste province.

Bruce and Irene Steinberg, along with their three sons, 19-year-old Zachary, 18-year-old William and 13-year-old Matthew were among the victims.

A Steinberg family friend Robin Shainberg told The Post, “Their children would have changed the world. They were just the most lovely family — the most giving, caring, wonderful friends to have.”

50-year-old Bruce was a Columbia Business School graduate, and 51-year-old Irene worked with the UJA-Federation of New York. Irene chaired the UJA’s Scarsdale Women’s Philanthropy group’s annual campaign kickoff in 2015.

On Sunday night, Bruce’s sister, Tamara Steinberg Jacobson, posted on Facebook, mourning the loss of her brother, sister-in-law and “3 amazing nephews.” Her post read, “We are in utter shock and disbelief right now.” Tamara also thanked all the people who have been reaching out to her and her heart-broken parents.

The Steinberg’s relatives and community were all “deeply hurting,” The Post was told by Senior Rabbi Jonathan Blake of the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale.

Blake told The Post, “All the Steinbergs will be remembered by their Scarsdale and the temple community as among the most devoted to the welfare of the Jewish community and the beauty of the Jewish tradition. They will be deeply missed.”

According to The Post, “Another US family that perished in the crash was identified as Mitchell and Leslie Weiss — both doctors from Florida — and their daughter, Hannah, a 19-year-old student at Columbia University. Mitchell, 52, was a radiology specialist in Clearwater who went to medical school in Philadelphia. Leslie, 50, was a pediatrician who practiced in Tampa. The other Americans killed were Amanda Rae Geissler and Gene Wing Szeto. Their hometowns were not immediately available. The plane’s crew members were identified as Juan Manuel Retana and Emma Ramos Calderon.”

The former president of Costa Rican, who serves from 2010 to 2014, Laura Chinchilla tweeter that her cousin was Retana. She wrote, “Our beloved cousin dies as part of the crew of the plane crash in Guanacaste. Strength to your children and siblings and peace to your remains. You will remain in our dear heart #JuanManuelRetana.”

Costa Rica Today has a video of the burning wreckage up on its website at All the identities will still need to be confirmed by autopsies said Security Minister Gustavo Mata.

The plane was a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan according to the Aviation Safety Network website. Nature Air are the plane’s owners and operators.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

A witness Dawn Wolf told NBC News, “The plane was super low and then all of a sudden [it] veered to the left and crashed into the ground of the mountain sideways, wing first.”

According to what Wolf told the news outlet, she was eating lunch with her family on Sunday afternoon, nearby the Punta Islita Airport where the plane just took off, when she saw the small aircraft fly over her. About 20 seconds later she heard a boom and saw a fiery explosion. She told NBC that the plane “was broken into two.”

Everyone in the town nearby dropped everything when they saw the crash and ran to help. Unfortunately there were no survivors.

By Hannah Hayes


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