MENOMONIE, Wis. (KMSP) - Family, friends and the extended UW-Stout community started their new year on a sad note, discovering that a former women's basketball player currently living in the Twin Cities was among the dead in a Costa Rican plane crash over the weekend.
Amanda Geissler was identified by a Stout spokesperson as the 10th American who died when a Nature Air flight to San Jose went down near Guanacaste. The other nine Americans were identified as members of two families from New York and Florida on a vacation organized by California-based travel company Backroads. Two flight crew members also died in the crash.
"When I first heard about it my hands shook," UW-Stout Sports Information Director Layne Pitt said.
A native of Thorp, Wis., Geissler was in the country working for Backroads as a trip leader for the group, which also contained another flight that landed safely in San Jose.
She was a standout point guard during her time at Stout, playing in 112 games and serving as captain for two years. A scrappy player standing at just 5-foot-4, Geissler also won three conference titles alongside her sister Lindsey.
"When she was out there, all 5-foot-nothing of her ran that team," Pitt said. "She would not be afraid to take on anybody that was bigger than her--and 'anybody bigger than her' was everybody."
Her LinkedIn page lists a 2007 Bachelor's degree from Stout in Applied Sciences, along with an MBA from UW-Milwaukee. She had been a trip leader with Backroads since May 2017, taking the job to see the world and push herself to become a better person in the process.
"She pushed you and expected a lot out of people, but she was also that friend that everybody loved and would go to," Stout Associate Athletic Director Erin Sullivan said. "She was so much fun to be around. Everybody loved her."
After graduating she stayed active, even competing in the Wisconsin Ironman triathlon in 2016--swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 and then running a full marathon.
"I don't think anything intimidated her," Pitt said. "[Traveling] was just another one of her adventures."
Costa Rican authorities continue to investigate the cause of the crash, saying Monday that strong winds may have played a role but that the pilot was "very experienced."
A family in the suburbs of New York City also said five of the dead were relatives on vacation. They identified them as Bruce and Irene Steinberg and their sons Matthew, William and Zachary, all of Scarsdale.
"We are in utter shock and disbelief right now," Bruce Steinberg's sister, Tamara Steinberg Jacobson, wrote on Facebook.
Rabbi Jonathan Blake of the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale said in a statement posted on the temple's Facebook page and emailed to The Associated Press that the Steinbergs were involved in philanthropy and local Jewish groups. "This tragedy hits our community very hard," Blake wrote.
In St. Petersburg, Florida, Rabbi Jacob Luski of Congregation B'nai Israel said Monday that victims' relatives had informed him that four members of his congregation were also on the plane.
"It is a tragedy that the Drs. Mitchell Weiss and Leslie Weiss and their two children, Hannah and Ari, died in that terrible crash," he said. "They were a wonderful family who will be missed."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.