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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Nine members of two families killed in Costa Rican plane crash

The Cessna 208B Grand Caravan aircraft operated by local company Nature Air had crashed minutes after take-off

The tail of the burnt fuselage of a small plane that crashed, rests near trees in Guanacaste, Corozalito, Costa Rica on December 31, 2017. Ezequiel Becerra / AFP
The tail of the burnt fuselage of a small plane that crashed, rests near trees in Guanacaste, Corozalito, Costa Rica on December 31, 2017. Ezequiel Becerra / AFP

Nine people from two US families were killed when a Costa Rican plane crashed into woodland minutes after take-off, officials and relatives confirmed.

Bruce and Irene Steinberg and their three sons were killed in the crash in the mountainous area off the Punta Islita beach town in the province of Guanacaste, about 230 kilometres west of the capital of San Jose.

Another family, doctors Mitchell and Leslie Weiss and their two children, were also killed, along with their holiday guide and the two aircrew.

The flight was part of a special charter service for 20 people, relying on two planes, arranged by California-based hiking and biking travel company Backroads.

The first plane, carrying 10 passengers, arrived safely in San Jose at 11.40am on Sunday. The second, with 10 passengers and two pilots, departed 20 minutes later.

"Regrettably this plane crashed a few minutes after taking off," said local aviation company Nature Air.

The Cessna 208B Grand Caravan aircraft crashed minutes after take-off, but officials had not determined the cause of the crash. The plane had passed a safety inspection about a month ago and was authorised to fly.

Although strong winds in the morning had forced the pilots to alter their itinerary, they had flown safely to Punto Islita to pick up passengers headed to San Jose.

Read more: Six killed in a New Year's Eve seaplane crash in Australia

A video of the crash site obtained from Costa Rica's Security Ministry shows orange flames consuming a pile of blackened ruins, with plane parts scattered in an area thick with trees.

Laura Chinchilla, who was president of Costa Rica from 2010 to 2014, said on Twitter that her cousin, one of the pilots, had died in the accident.

"There are no people alive," Costa Rica's security minister Gustavo Mata said, adding that autopsies would be needed to confirm the total number and identities of victims because their remains were badly burned.

Punta Islita, on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast, is popular among North American and European tourists for its pristine beaches and lush landscape.