Plane carrying U.S. tourists crashes in Costa Rica, killing 12

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A small plane carrying a group of American tourists has crashed in Costa Rica, killing all 12 people on board in the country’s worst aviation accident in nearly 30 years, local officials say. The cause was not immediately known.

The incident happened on Sunday afternoon when a Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft went down in a mountainous area near Punta Islita, a resort in northwest Costa Rica, about 143 kilometers (90 miles) west of San Jose.

The plane, which was operated by Nature Air, went down just moments after it took off from Punta Islita Airport for a flight to the capital San Jose. Footage from the scene showed the wreckage, which was nearly completely destroyed, on fire in a wooded area.

The Public Safety Ministry said the plane was carrying 12 people, including 10 foreign tourists and 2 Costa Rican crew members. The tourists were later identified as American citizens, including a family from the state of New York.

“We express our condolences to all those affected by this tragedy,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said. “We are in contact with Costa Rican aviation authorities and will continue to monitor the situation.”

The pilot of the plane was identified as Juan Manuel Retana, the cousin of former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla. “You will remain in our heart,” Chinchilla said on Twitter.

With 12 deaths, Sunday’s accident is the third deadliest aviation accident in the history of Costa Rica, and the worst since SANSA Flight 32 crashed into a mountain near San Jose, killing all 23 people on board the aircraft.

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