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2017 Nature Air Cessna 208 Caravan crash

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Nature Air Flight 9916
Nature Air Cessna Caravan 208 TI-BBC (13433657575).jpg
A Nature Air Cessna Caravan 208, similar to the crashed aircraft
DateDecember 31, 2017
SummaryImpacted terrain after take-off, under investigation
Site15 kilometers (9.3 miles) east of Playa Sámara in the Nandayure canton, Punta Islita, Costa Rica
Aircraft typeCessna 208 Caravan
OperatorNature Air
Flight originPunta Islita Airport, Punta Islita, Costa Rica
DestinationJuan Santamaría International Airport, San José, Costa Rica
Fatalities12 (all)

Nature Air Flight 9916 (5C9916)[1] was a 40-minute chartered domestic passenger flight from Punta Islita Airport, in Nandayure, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica to Costa Rica's capital San José. The flight was operated by Costa Rican airline Nature Air, using a Cessna 208 Caravan. On 31 December 2017, the Cessna 208 Caravan carrying 10 passengers, mostly tourists, and 2 crew members crashed into mountainous terrain shortly after takeoff from Punta Islita Airport.[2]

All onboard were killed on impact. An inquiry into the crash was opened by the Costa Rican Government.[3][4][5]


The passenger flight, chartered by Backroads travel company[6], took off from the airport at Punta Islita, a renowned resort town in the country, at 12:10 p.m local time. It was carrying 10 tourists, including 2 American families and 2 local crew members. The flight was heading to Costa Rica's capital San José. The aircraft had arrived late in Punta Islita due to inclement weather condition. It was forced to land in Tambor. [7]

Minutes later, the aircraft swayed to the left. It then rolled and the wing later clipped trees and impacted terrain near the airport, exploded and burst into flames.[8] The aircraft couldn't be contacted and was declared as missing. Approximately at 12:30 p.m, emergency services near the airport received reports that the aircraft had crashed into the woods. Emergency service sent 20 vehicles, including ambulances and 45 firefighters. Tourists and locals who saw the crash also rushed to the crash site and assisted the rescue operation.[9]

Photos published from Costa Rica's Ministry of Public Security revealed that the aircraft was pulverized on impact.[10] The fire chief of Nandayure, Hector Chavéz, stated that the scene was a "total destruction". It crashed in an inverted condition with no survivors. By 07:00 p.m local time, rescuers had recovered all the victims of the flight.[9]

Passengers and crews[edit]

The victims were two families of American tourists, an American tour guide and two Costa Rican crew. Among the dead was Captain Juan Manuel Retana, the cousin of Costa Rica's former president Laura Chinchilla.[9] He was the pilot of the flight and had accrued a total flying hours of 15,000 hours. Before he joined Nature Air, he had joined Costa Rica's regional airline SANSA for 14 years. The other crew member was identified by the Costa Rican media as Emma Ramos. [11][12]


The Costa Rican Government opened an investigation into the cause of the crash on 1 January 2018. The investigation was conducted by Costa Rica DGAC. The United States National Transportation Safety Board was expected to assist the Costa Rican authorities in the investigation, as most of the passengers were of American origin.[13][6][14]

In the initial stage of the investigation, investigators cited mechanical failure, human factors and adverse weather condition as the cause of the crash. [9]Multiple reports gathered from eyewitnesses revealed that the weather condition in Punta Islita was inclement. Gusts of 20 knots (37 kph or 23 mph) were reported in the area.[15] Another witnesses stated that the aircraft flew too low. Enio Cubillo, head of the Costa Rican DGAC, stated that the investigation of Flight 9916 would take months[16].

On 8 January 2018, Costa Rica's Organismo de Investigación Judicial (Judicial Investigation Organisation) raided the offices of Nature Air in Tobias Bolaño Airport in Pavas and the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San José. They also raided the offices of the Costa Rica Aviación Civil in La Uruca, part of the investigation of the crash.[17] It was stated that at least 30 agents participated in the operation with the objective to obtain files on the pilots and on the Cessna 208 Caravan, and also the identities of those in charge of the maintenance and those who gave the authorization of the flight.[18]


The crash highlighted the danger of privately chartered tourist passenger flights, causing concern among Costa Ricans who work in the tourism industry.[19]. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, Fox News warned their readers about the danger of flying on privately chartered flights. The former head of the National Transportation Safety Board also warned Americans to not fly on privately charter flights in Costa Rica. Isabel Vargas, the president of the Costa Rican National Chamber of Tourism refuted the claims, as did the Costa Rican director of Civil Aviation, Ennio Cubillo, who called the claims that chartered flights are not subject to proper safety oversight irresponsible reporting.[19]

See also[edit]

  • 2008 Aéreo Ruta Maya crash, Guatemala, also involved the Cessna 208 Caravan
  • Missinippi Airways Cessna 208 crash, Canada


  1. "Nature Air Flight 9916". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  2. Villanueva, Djenane; Shoichet, Catharine E. (1 January 2018). "10 Americans among 12 dead in Costa Rica plane crash". CNN. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  3. "Small Plane Crashes in Costa Rica". Time.
  4. "Costa Rica plane crash kills 12, including 10 visitors". Fox News. 31 December 2017.
  5. "At least 12 die in plane crash in Costa Rica - government department". Reuters. 31 December 2017.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "US to Aid in Investigation of Costa Rica Plane Crash That Killed New York Family". NBC New York. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  7. "Fuertes vientos se reportaron antes de caída de avioneta que dejó 12 muertos". La Naciõn. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  8. "Winds seen as factor in Costa Rica plane crash that killed 12". Tico Times. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 "What is Known About the Plane Crash in Nandayure". Voz De Guanacaste. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  10. "Nature Air Caravan crashes in Costa Rica". Flight Gloval. 1 January 2017. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  11. News, A. B. C. (1 January 2018). "2 American families killed in Costa Rica plane crash". ABC News.
  12. Haag, Matthew. "New York Family of 5 Among 10 Americans Killed in Costa Rica Plane Crash". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  13. "US to aid in investigation of Costa Rica plane crash". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  14. "US to aid in investigation of Costa Rica plane crash". ABC. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  15. "Familias de EEUU murieron en caída de avión en Costa Rica". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  16. Andres Pretel, Enriques. "Costa Rica plane crash probe could take months: aviation chief". Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  17. "OIJ Raids Offices of Nature Air and Civil Aviation". QCosta Rica. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  18. "Costa Rican authorities raid Nature Air offices in Dec.31 crash probe". Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Caída de avión de Nature Air impacta turismo desde EE. UU". La Naciõn. Retrieved 10 January 2018.

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