(Renee Ghert-Zand/TimesofIsrael.com and combined sources) Costa Rican investigators said Monday that strong winds or mechanical problems most likely caused a charter aircraft to crash into the woods in the province of Guanacaste on Sunday, killing two crew members and 10 U.S. citizens, including two Jewish families from New York and Florida.
The families, from the New York City suburb of Scarsdale and from Belleair, Florida, accounted for nine of the dead. Their American guide was the 10th U.S. victim.
The Scarsdale family was identified as Bruce and Irene Steinberg and their sons Matthew, William and Zachary. The Florida family has been identified as Mitchell and Leslie Levin Weiss and their children, Hannah and Ari.
Mitchell Weiss was a vascular and interventional radiologist and Leslie Weiss was a pediatrician, both at the Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater. Hannah, their daughter, was earning a joint degree at Columbia University and List College, the undergraduate school of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Ari, 16, was involved in the southeastern chapter of United Synagogue Youth, and it was that organization that announced the deaths of the teens in a Facebook post.
Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz, dean of graduate and undergraduate studies at JTS, Conservative Judaism’s flagship educational institution, called Hannah “a rising star in our community.”
Tributes to Hannah have been posted to her Facebook page by friends and classmates. Meanwhile, younger teens who knew her and her brother Ari from Ramah Darom and USY gathered for a sleepover Sunday night to recite Psalms and mourn.
“By the time we left at 2 a.m., the wailing and sobbing had almost subsided,” said an educator who was there.
The Steinbergs were flying to the Costa Rican capital from the Pacific coast on the last leg of their vacation, The New York Times reported. Bruce Steinberg worked in investment banking and his wife volunteered at several organizations. She was one of the organizers of the 2017 annual UJA Federation of New York women’s fundraising event in Scarsdale. She was also a member of the board of directors of the American Jewish Committee in Westchester County.
Matthew Steinberg was in eighth grade at a private school, William was a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, and Zachary was a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University.
Rabbi Jonathan Blake of the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale said that the Steinbergs were involved in philanthropy and local Jewish groups. “This tragedy hits our community very hard,” Blake wrote in a statement posted on the temple’s Facebook page.
“We are in utter shock and disbelief right now,” Bruce Steinberg’s sister, Tamara Steinberg Jacobson, wrote on Facebook.