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Two American families killed in Costa Rican plane crash

The plane came down in the Guanacaste, northwest Costa Rica with 12 on board
Ten victims have been c..

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  • The plane came down in the Guanacaste, northwest Costa Rica with 12 on board
  • Ten victims have been confirmed to be Americans, according to local officials
  • Bruce Steinberg, Irene Steinberg, Matthew Steinberg, William Steinberg and Zachary Steinberg were the first victims of crash to be identified
  • Mitchell, 52, and Leslie Levin Weiss, 50, both of St. Petersburg, Florida, their 19-year-old daughter Hannah Mae
  • 16-year-old Ari Moses Weiss was also reported dead by several news outlets
  • Americans Amanda Rae Geissler and Gene Wing Szeto died in the crash
  • Local officials identified pilot as Juan Manuel Retana and copilot Emma Ramos
  • Public Safety Ministry posted photographs and video of the crash site Sunday

By Hannah Parry For Dailymail.com

Published: 12:02 EST, 1 January 2018 | Updated: 14:45 EST, 1 January 2018

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

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)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)

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)

Juan Manuel RetanaJuan Manuel RetanaEmma RamosEmma Ramos

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

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

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

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 The plane came down in a forest soon after taking off 

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)  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)  

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 IslitaThe 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

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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Australia

Sydney seaplane crash: Exhaust fumes affected pilot, report confirms

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The pilot of a seaplane that crashed into an Australian river, killing all on board, had been left confused and disorientated by leaking exhaust fumes, investigators have confirmed.

The Canadian pilot and five members of a British family died in the crash north of Sydney in December 2017.

All were found to have higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, a final report has found.

It recommended the mandatory fitting of gas detectors in all such planes.

British businessman Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his 48-year-old fiancée, magazine editor Emma Bowden, her 11-year-old daughter Heather and his sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, and pilot Gareth Morgan, 44. Mr Cousins was the chief executive of catering giant Compass.

The family had been on a sightseeing flight in the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane when it nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River at Jerusalem Bay, about 50km (30 miles) from the city centre.

The final report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed the findings of an interim report published in 2020.

It said pre-existing cracks in the exhaust collector ring were believed to have released exhaust gas into the engine bay. Holes left by missing bolts in a firewall then allowed the fumes to enter the cabin.

“As a result, the pilot would have almost certainly experienced effects such as confusion, visual disturbance and disorientation,” the report said.

“Consequently, it was likely that this significantly degraded the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”

The ATSB recommended the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider mandating the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors in piston-engine aircraft that carry passengers.

It previously issued safety advisory notices to owners and operators of such aircraft that they install detectors “with an active warning” to pilots”. Operators and maintainers of planes were also advised to carry out detailed inspections of exhaust systems and firewalls.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55862128

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Australia

Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021, says top official

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Australia is unlikely to fully open its borders in 2021 even if most of its population gets vaccinated this year as planned, says a senior health official.

The comments dampen hopes raised by airlines that travel to and from the country could resume as early as July.

Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy made the prediction after being asked about the coronavirus’ escalation in other nations.

Dr Murphy spearheaded Australia’s early action to close its borders last March.

“I think that we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” he said, adding that he believed quarantine requirements for travellers would continue “for some time”.

Citizens, permanent residents and those with exemptions are allowed to enter Australia if they complete a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Qantas – Australia’s national carrier – reopened bookings earlier this month, after saying it expected international travel to “begin to restart from July 2021.”

However, it added this depended on the Australian government’s deciding to reopen borders.

Australia’s tight restrictions

The country opened a travel bubble with neighbouring New Zealand late last year, but currently it only operates one-way with inbound flights to Australia.

Australia has also discussed the option of travel bubbles with other low-risk places such as Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

A vaccination scheme is due to begin in Australia in late February. Local authorities have resisted calls to speed up the process, giving more time for regulatory approvals.

Australia has so far reported 909 deaths and about 22,000 cases, far fewer than many nations. It reported zero locally transmitted infections on Monday.

Experts have attributed much of Australia’s success to its swift border lockdown – which affected travellers from China as early as February – and a hotel quarantine system for people entering the country.

Local outbreaks have been caused by hotel quarantine breaches, including a second wave in Melbourne. The city’s residents endured a stringent four-month lockdown last year to successfully suppress the virus.

Other outbreaks – including one in Sydney which has infected about 200 people – prompted internal border closures between states, and other restrictions around Christmas time.

The state of Victoria said on Monday it would again allow entry to Sydney residents outside of designated “hotspots”, following a decline in cases.

While the measures have been praised, many have also criticised them for separating families across state borders and damaging businesses.

Dr Murphy said overall Australia’s virus response had been “pretty good” but he believed the nation could have introduced face masks earlier and improved its protections in aged care homes.

In recent days, Australia has granted entry to about 1,200 tennis players, staff and officials for the Australian Open. The contingent – which has recorded at least nine infections – is under quarantine.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55699581

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Australia

Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection

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The Australian city of Brisbane has begun a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.

Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible UK variant and they were afraid it could spread.

Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia’s first wave last year.

It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.

The lockdown is for five populous council areas in Queensland’s state capital.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the measure on Friday morning local time, about 16 hours after the woman tested positive.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown aimed to halt the virus as rapidly as possible, adding: “Doing three days now could avoid doing 30 days in the future.”

“I think everybody in Queensland… knows what we are seeing in the UK and other places around the world is high rates of infection from this particular strain,” she said.

“And we do not want to see that happening here in our great state.”

Australia has reported 28,500 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. By contrast, the US, which is the hardest-hit country, has recorded more than 21 million infections while nearly 362,000 people have died of the disease.The lockdown will begin at 18:00 on Friday (08:00 GMT) in the Brisbane city, Logan and the Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands local government areas.

Residents will only be allowed to leave home for certain reasons, such as buying essential items and seeking medical care.

For the first time, residents in those areas will also be required to wear masks outside of their homes.

Australia has faced sporadic outbreaks over the past year, with the most severe one in Melbourne triggering a lockdown for almost four months.

A pre-Christmas outbreak in Sydney caused fresh alarm, but aggressive testing and contact-tracing has kept infection numbers low. The city recorded four local cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has pledged to start mass vaccinations in February instead of March as was planned.

Lockdown interrupts ‘near normal’ life in Brisbane

Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Brisbane

At 8:00 today I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk – and because it’s summer here – a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.

When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later it was a different story – 50 people standing in the drizzle – queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags. “Heaps busier than Christmas,” a cheery trolley attendant told me. “It’s off the scale”.

Despite the “don’t panic” messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.

While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.

But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining.

And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule. This is the first time the UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia.

And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangoes.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55582836

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