“They were the kind of people you would like to have many of,” the relative said before saying she had to hang up. “They always did everything as a family.”
Lyn Kaller, a close friend of Ms. Steinberg who also lives in Scarsdale, said she learned of the plane crash in a text message from a rabbi in Costa Rica on Sunday afternoon. “Something happened to the Steinbergs,” the rabbi wrote.
Ms. Kaller said she immediately called the man, who told her that the plane the family was on had crashed after takeoff, but she did not believe him until her son found a news story online about the accident.
In the hours after the crash, Ms. Kaller said that an official with a United States consulate in Costa Rica also contacted her about the crash. The Steinbergs had many friends in Scarsdale, she said, so why the rabbi and government official contacted her had become another mystery in Sunday’s tragedy.
Mr. Steinberg worked in investment banking, and Ms. Steinberg volunteered at many nonprofits, Ms. Kaller said. She said she met Ms. Steinberg about 14 years ago when Matthew Steinberg and her son, Noah, attended nursery school at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale.
Matthew was an eighth-grader at a private school, William attended the University of Pennsylvania and Zachary was at Johns Hopkins University, Ms. Kaller said. She said that their parents made an effort to expose them to cultures all over the world. It was a trip to Asia in a previous year, and the latest was the vacation to Costa Rica.
“Irene and Bruce felt very strongly about providing that kind of culture and enrichment for their children,” she said in an interview.
Aviation and security officials in Costa Rica told local news media on Sunday that the cause of the crash was unknown but that the Nature Air plane encountered inclement weather on Sunday when it first tried to land in Punta Islita to pick up the American passengers. The plane returned to another airport before it eventually landed in Punta Islita around 11 a.m., the country’s civil aviation director told the newspaper El Mundo.
After the pilots picked up the American passengers, the plane took off for San José, the capital, which is about 140 miles east, the authorities said. Photos posted by government officials on Facebook show that the Cessna plane crashed several hundred yards from the end of a runway at Punta Islita Airport.
Laura Chinchilla, the president of Costa Rica from 2010 to 2014, said on Twitter that her cousin was one of the crew members killed in the crash.
Costa Rica, particularly its pristine beaches and mountains on the Pacific coast, is popular with North American and European tourists. More tourists visit Costa Rica from America than any other country. Eco-tourism is a major draw, and Nature Air bills itself as the first carbon-neutral airline in the world.
In September, an American and another passenger on a Nature Air flight died when a single-engine Cessna crashed in a river in Guanacaste. Another American on the flight was injured.