CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – Two prominent Clearwater physicians and their two teenage children are reportedly among 12 dead in a New Year’s Eve sightseeing plane crash in Costa Rica.
NBC News reports Vascular and Interventional Radiologist Mitchell Weiss and his wife, pediatrician Leslie Weiss, were on the plane, along with their children, Hannah, 19, and Ari, 16. The family lives in Belleair and both doctors have practicing privileges at Morton Plant Mease Hospital in Clearwater.
Mitchell Weiss was head of interventional radiology for Radiology Associates of Clearwater. He has practiced at Morton Plant Hospital for more than 15 years.
Pediatrician Leslie Levine Weiss served as a neonatal hospitalist at Morton Plant Hospital since 2004. She was employed by Pediatrix Medical Group, which is part of MEDNAX, Inc., a national health solutions group.
The doctors were well-respected and longtime members of the Clearwater medical community. Baycare is working on a statement but has not yet commented on the deaths.
“It’s a tragedy and a devastating loss to their families, for our synagogue family and for the Pinellas County community,” Rabbi Jacob Luski of Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg told NBC News. Luski told NBC News the family had been members of his synagogue for years.
Five members of the Steinberg family from Scarsdale, New York were also killed in the crash according to NBC News. Multiple news reports indicate at least one other passenger perished, along with the plane’s two pilots.
Statement from Morton Plant Hospital:
“We were deeply grieved this morning to learn of the deaths of two beloved members of our team – Drs. Mitchell and Leslie Weiss,” said Kris Hoce, president Morton Plant Hospital. “Their lives and medical skills have touched so many in and around our community, and we are forever grateful to them. Our sympathies go out to their extended family and many friends who are also trying to process this tragic news.”
Statement from Radiology Associates of Clearwater:
“Mitch was a tremendously skilled interventional radiologist who will be sorely missed by his partners, his medical team and the patients whose lives he touched. It was an honor to practice medicine with him,” said John Fisher, MD, president, Radiology Associates of Clearwater. “We all grieve for the tragic loss of not only Mitch but his wife Leslie and his children Hannah and Ari.”
Statement from MEDNAX:
“The sudden loss of Leslie, our colleague and valued team member, leaves all of us grief stricken,” said Douglas Koppang, director of operations, MEDNAX. “No words will ever express how much we will miss her compassion and talent she displayed as she served others.”
The Backroads Active Travel Company released the following statement on Monday afternoon:
“On Sunday afternoon, December 31, we experienced an unimaginable tragedy when a Nature Air flight traveling from Punta Islita to San Jose, Costa Rica, crashed in the Guanacaste Mountains. Officials in Costa Rica have confirmed that there are no survivors. Aboard the flight were nine Backroads guests, a Backroads Trip Leader and two flight crew members. A second Nature Air flight carrying Backroads guests and another Trip Leader arrived safely in San Jose.
Backroads has been running active travel adventures in Costa Rica for more than 25 years. We are extremely heartbroken over this horrific loss of life and are working with the local authorities to understand the cause of the crash. We have our entire Costa Rica team on the ground to assist in this tragedy, in addition to a member of our Executive team, who is en route to Costa Rica.
In the midst of this heartbreaking news, our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this tragedy. We will release more details as officials confirm them.”