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The plane was carrying five other US citizens and two local crewmembers when it crashed in a wooded area, killing everyone on board, authorities said. 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 two Costa Rican pilots", President Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera said in a statement posted on social media.

A plane crashed in Costa Rica on Sunday, killing all 12 people on board.

A US State Department official said: "We confirm the deaths of multiple US citizens in an airplane crash in Costa Rica".

Americans are by far the biggest group of tourists visiting Costa Rica.

He said the cause of the crash was under investigation.

"The government vows to do everything necessary to help the victims' family members in whatever they need in this hard moment and sends them the solidarity of all the Costa Rican people", Solis said.

The same plane had arrived in Punta Islita on Sunday morning from San Jose and was delayed in landing by strong winds, Cubillo said.

This time of year is particularly busy in Costa Rica's coastal resort areas as tourists and locals alike spend end-of-year holidays in the sun.

Former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said via Twitter that Retana was her cousin.