10 Americans killed in Costa Rica plane crash


10 Americans killed in Costa Rica plane crash

PlayMinistry of Public Security

WATCH 10 Americans, 2 pilots killed in Costa Rica plane crash

A charter plane crashed in northwestern Costa Rica on Sunday, killing 10 American passengers and two Costa Rican pilots, according to the Costa Rican government.

The plane crashed in Guanacaste just moments after takeoff fron Punta Islita Airport, according to officials and witnesses. The wreckage of the plane, a private aircraft belonging to the airline Nature Air, was on fire and no one responded when it was found by rescue crews, according to Costa Rica's Ministry of Public Security.

"The government of Costa Rica deeply regrets the death of 10 American passengers and 2 Costa Rican pilots in an air crash of aircraft TI-BEI from the company Nature Air, which occurred midday today near Nandayure, Guanacaste," the office of Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis said in a statement Sunday night.

PHOTO: A plane crashed in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, in the Punta Islita area, Dec. 31, 2017.Ministry of Public Security
A plane crashed in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, in the Punta Islita area, Dec. 31, 2017.

The U.S. Department of State confirmed that "multiple U.S. citizens" died in the crash.

"We can confirm the death of multiple U.S. citizens in an airplane crash in Costa Rica on December 31, 2017," a State Department spokesperson said. "We express our condolences to all those affected by this tragedy. We are in contact with Costa Rican aviation authorities and will continue to monitor the situation."

The State Department declined to identify the people on board, "out of respect for their families."

The crash took place Sunday afternoon at 12:15 p.m. after the plane left the airport heading to Costa Rica's capital, San Jose, a ministry spokesperson said.

Backroads, a travel company headquartered in California, confirmed in a statement Monday that the passengers aboard the downed plane were on a trip it had organized. There were nine Backroads guests, a Backroads trip leader and two flight crew members on the Nature Air flight, the company said.

"Officials in Costa Rica have confirmed that there are no survivors," Backroads said in the statement. "We are extremely heartbroken over this horrific loss of life and are working with the local authorities to understand the cause of the crash. We have our entire Costa Rica team on the ground to assist in this tragedy, in addition to a member of our executive team, who is in route to Costa Rica."

Costa Rica Civil Aviation director Enio Cubillo said at a news conference Sunday that the Nature Air pilot, Juan Manuel Retana, was very experienced. Cubillo said the cause of the crash was under investigation.

Dawn and Matthew Wolfe, who have been vacationing in Costa Rica for a month, said they and their three children were sitting in a restaurant near Punta Islita Airport when the plane took off. They said within minutes after takeoff the plane took a nose dive and crashed.

"When I saw it sideways, I thought, 'Oh, is this a plane doing a trick?' I thought, and then I went, 'Wait, that's a big plane to do a trick,' and then it … I mean, it … We just … Our heart sank, we got some pain in our stomachs," Dawn Wolfe told ABC News. "I looked at my husband and said, 'You need to go,' and right at that time two other gentlemen were running up the road, so my husband just ran with them, and they just started right toward the wreckage."

ABC News' Conor Finnegan, Joshua Hoyos, Kathleen Hendry, Darren Reynolds and Morgan Winsor contributed to this report.

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