PUNTA ISLITA (Costa Rica) • •Strong winds were likely a factor in the crash of a small plane in Costa Rica that killed all 10 American passengers on board and two local crew members, according to officials and witnesses.
Sunday's accident in the north-western Guanacaste region, popular with tourists seeking pristine tropical beaches, killed all on board the Cessna 208 Caravan owned and operated by domestic airline Nature Air.
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 in the day to get the passengers but aborted because of "the gusts of wind".
The aircraft was up-to-date with its certification and was inspected a month ago, the agency said.
"There had been a lot of wind, really strong," one resident in the area told Agence France-Presse yesterday. She said that when she and other residents 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, she said.
The plane came down minutes after taking off from a small sealed airstrip in Punta Islita where the tourists had boarded the aircraft.
An American family of five from a New York City suburb was wiped out in the crash, US media reported. Mr Bruce Steinberg, his wife Irene and their sons William, Zachary and Matthew were on a family vacation.
Passengers Thibault Astruc, Amanda Geissler, Charles Palmer, Leslie Weiss and Sherry Wuu were the other victims.
The Costa Rican pilot was Mr Juan Manuel Retana. His co-pilot was Ms Emma Ramos