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Community Mourns Loss Of Prominent Scarsdale Family In Costa Rica Crash

Bruce and Irene Steinberg and their sons, Matthew, William and Zachary of Scarsdale
Bruce and Irene Steinberg and their sons, Matthew, William and Zachary of Scarsdale Photo Credit: Facebook

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. - The Scarsdale community is mourning the loss of the Steinberg family, who were among a dozen Americans killed in a New Year’s Eve plane crash in Costa Rica.

A single-engine Cessna plane crashed into a mountain in the province of Guanacaste while en route to Punita Islita, a beach resort on the Pacific coast, claiming the lives of the 10 passengers and two pilots, according to officials. Among those passengers were 50-year-old Bruce Steinberg, 51-year-old Irene Steinberg and their teenage sons, Matthew, William and Zachary of Scarsdale.

Bruce Steinberg and his wife were active with the UJA-Federation of New York. Irene Steinberg chaired the annual campaign kickoff of the organization’s Scarsdale Women’s Philanthropy group in 2015.

“UJA-Federation of New York mourns the loss of our dear friend, Irene Steinberg, and her family, who tragically died this weekend. Irene and her family have been long-time UJA supporters and Irene most recently served as an area chair of the Scarsdale women’s campaign," the UJA-Federation said in a statement Tuesday morning. "The family was generous, kind, and loved being part of the Scarsdale and Jewish communities.

“Irene worked tirelessly on behalf of UJA, helping us support vulnerable New Yorkers and was an extraordinary person -- devoted mother and wife and loyal friend. She and her family will be sorely missed.”

The Scarsdale School District made counselors available as classes reopened on Tuesday. Zachary Steinberg graduated from the district in 2016, with his brother William graduating last year. They were attending the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania, respectively. Youngest brother Matthew was attending the Fieldston School at the time of the crash.

Schools Superintendent Thomas Hagerman said that “the tragedy is hard to process for a variety of reasons, not least among them the loss of an entire family in one instant.”

“Irene Steinberg was actively involved in giving her time to the District, chairing the High School's College and Career Center. The Steinbergs' recent graduation dates and rich involvement in the District created a variety of connections which intensify the grief we feel,” he said. “May we transform the sense of loss we feel as we welcome the new year into a deep gratitude for the life and love we enjoy every day.”

Juan Manuel Retana was identified as the pilot. Laura Chinchilla, the president of Costa Rica from 2010 to 2014, said on Twitter that Retana was her cousin. The other crew member, whose name has not been released, was also a Costa Rican citizen.

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

Costa Rica's President Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera said "the government vows to do everything necessary to help the victims' family members in whatever they need in this difficult moment and sends them the solidarity of all the Costa Rican people."

Johns Hopkins officials are collecting messages of condolence for the family. Emails or letters can be addressed to the "The Family of Zachary Steinberg" and sent to or to the Office of the Dean of Student Life in the Mattin Center, Suite 210.

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