ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - Friends and coworkers of a Pinellas County family killed in a New Year's Eve plane crash in Central America are remembering those who died as pillars of their community.
Doctors Mitchell and Leslie Weiss, along with their children, Hannah and Ari, were vacationing in Costa Rica over the holidays when their plane crashed just after takeoff Sunday. The entire Weiss family and eight others onboard were killed.
"They're amazing people. This city is going to miss them but the world is going to miss people like that," said Dr. Greg Savel, a pediatrician who worked closely with Leslie Weiss. "It's such an incredible tragedy to imagine two generations of a family wiped off the face of this earth in one horrific tragedy."
Mitchell and Leslie Weiss, 52 and 50 respectively, both practiced at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater; the former was the head of interventional radiology for Radiology Associates of Clearwater, while the latter, according to Savel, was a head pediatrician at the hospital.
Savel, who was also a neighbor of Weiss family, said he hadn't learned about the accident until Monday morning when he arrived at the hospital for work.
"Everybody had tears in their eyes and I stopped and they said, 'Haven't you heard?'" Savel told FOX 13. "Not only were they amazing members of our medical community, and that's how I knew them, but they were very strong members of their temple and of the community. They were people who believed in causes but gave their time to make sure that their causes were forwarded. So they were people that just talked the talk, but they walked the walk."
Hannah, 19, graduated from Shorecrest Preparatory school in St. Petersburg and was currently studying at Columbia University. Her brother, Ari, 16, was a student at Shorecrest.
"Both of those kids were just tremendous students. Ari was one of the sharpest, brightest kids in his class, straight-A student, just this effervescent personality," said Tom Dillow, the assistant headmaster at Shorecrest Prep. "Hannah exuded a passion for life and living and if you met her, there was this incredible energy about her."
Shorecrest Prep plans to have counselors available to students when they return to classes next week.
Savel said passion permeated the Weiss family and it'll be missed by those who knew them best.
"They gave their lives to their profession, but also their children. The legacy they leave behind is that they made a difference," he said.
The family was very involved at the Congregation B'nai Israel, where they were members.
Investigators are trying to determine what caused the plane to go down.