10 Americans killed in Costa Rica plane crash

A charter plane crashed in Guancaste, Costa Rica, today, killing 10 American passengers and two Costa Rican pilots, the Costa Rican government said.

The plane crashed just moments after takeoff from Punta Islita Airport, according to officials and witnesses.

The wreckage of the plane, a private aircraft belonging to the airline Nature Air, was on fire and no one responded when it was found by rescue crews, according to the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security.

"The government of Costa Rica deeply regrets the death of 10 American passengers and 2 Costa Rican pilots in an air crash of aircraft TI-BEI from the company Nature Air, which occurred midday today near Nandayure, Guanacaste," the Costa Rican president’s office said in a statement this evening. 

The U.S. State Department confirmed that "multiple U.S. citizens" died in the crash.

"We can confirm the death of multiple U.S. citizens in an airplane crash in Costa Rica on December 31, 2017," a U.S. State Department spokesperson said.

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

The State Department declined to identify the people on board, "out of respect for their families."

The crash took place at 12:15 p.m. after the plane left Punta Islita Airport bound for San Jose, the Costa Rican capital, a ministry spokesperson said.

Enio Cubillo, director of Costa Rica Civil Aviation, said at a news conference that the Nature Air pilot, Juan Manuel Retana, was very experienced.

He said the cause of the crash was under investigation.

Dawn and Matthew Wolfe, who have been vacationing in Costa Rica for a month, said they and their three children were sitting in a restaurant near Punta Islita Airport when the plane took off. They said within minutes after takeoff the plane took a nose dive and crashed.

"When I saw it sideways, I thought, ‘Oh, is this a plane doing a trick?’ I thought, and then I went, ‘Wait, that’s a big plane to do a trick,’ and then it … I mean, it … We just … Our heart sank, we got some pain in our stomachs," Dawn Wolfe told ABC News.

"I looked at my husband and said, ‘You need to go,’ and right at that time two other gentlemen were running up the road, so my husband just ran with them, and they just started right toward the wreckage."