Investigators on Monday were trying to determine what caused the deadly New Year’s Eve plane crash in Costa Rica that claimed the lives of 10 Americans and the two crew members.
The single-engine plane, which was owned by a Costa Rican airline called Nature Air, crashed into a mountain shortly after taking off at 1 p.m. (ET) from an air field in Guanacaste, a Pacific coast province popular with tourists, the country’s president, Luis Guillermo Solís, confirmed.
While Solis did not identify the dead, five of the victims were New Yorkers, Tamara Jacobson, a relative, told NBC News.
Jacobson identified the victims as her brother, Bruce Steinberg, and his family: Irene, Matthew, William and Zachary. She said the “amazing” family lived in the New York City suburb of Scarsdale and had recently celebrated the birthdays of three generations of relatives.
“We are in utter shock and disbelief right now,” Jacobson added on Facebook.
The Steinberg family was very involved in local Jewish groups and charities, said Rabbi Jonathan Blake of the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale. “This tragedy hits the community very hard,” he said.
“I know there will be much more to say in the coming days, and that so many of us want to do everything we can to express our grief and to show support for their bereaved family,” he added in a statement on Facebook.
The two crew members were Costa Rican. Laura Chinchilla, a former president of Costa Rica, wrote on Twitter that her cousin, Juan Manuel Retana, was among the dead.
“You will remain in our beloved heart,” she said.
Witness Dawn Wolf said she was eating lunch with her family near the airport when she saw the doomed plane fly overhead.
The aircraft had a single propeller, she said, adding that such planes are sometimes used to get from small towns to bigger cities for about $50.
“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,” she said.
The plane was in the air for less than a minute, according to Wolf.
Wolf heard a boom, then she said she saw an explosion 20 seconds later.
The “plane was broken into two,” she said.
In a statement, the State Department confirmed the deaths of “multiple” Americans.