Bay Area family among those killed in Costa Rica plane crash

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A Pinellas County family is among several people killed in a New Year's Eve plane crash in Central America.

Doctors Mitchell and Leslie Weiss -- along with their two teenage children, Hannah and Ari -- were vacationing in Costa Rica over the holidays when their plane crashed there, leaving behind a community in shock. 

"A neighbor, that's a good neighbor down the street that you sit and you talk to, and you find out about their kids and what's happening in school and work," said the Weiss' neighbor, Spencer Hornsby. "It is heartbreaking, it really is." 

Not just a neighbor, Dr. Leslie Weiss was a pediatrician who had cared for Hornsbys’ son since birth. Dr. Mitchell Weiss was a radiologist. 

"They were always happy, smiling, always wanting to know about my son," said Hornsby. "It's still heartbreaking just to hear the news that something so close, a few hundred feet down the street, the people that lived four houses away, that the whole family would be taken away so easily."  

The family was very involved at the Congregation B'nai Israel, where they were members. The children were leaders at their school. 

The Weiss' son, Ari, was a student at Shorecrest Preparatory School. Their daughter, Hannah, graduated from there in 2016 and had since been studying at Columbia University. 

"Both of them, really full of energy and life," said Tom Dillow, the assistant headmaster at Shorecrest Prep. "We feel very fortunate to have had them with us for the time that we did." 

All 12 on board the single-engine plane were killed in the crash, including a family of five from New York, plus an employee of Backroads, the company that organized the trip. Two Costa Rican pilots on board are also dead. 

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the plane to crash. Witnesses say they saw the plane nose dive just minutes after it had taken off.

Meanwhile, Shorecrest Prep plans to have counselors available to students when they return to classes next week. 

"You have a bunch of students that are in shock and are grieving right now. You have a lot of other families and parents, an entire community that is likewise in shock," continued Dillow. "It's enormously unusual to have a tragedy upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy like this."