A Wisconsin native was among those who died Sunday in a Costa Rica plane crash that killed all 12 people aboard.
Amanda Rae Geissler, a 33-year-old guide for the Backroads adventure travel company, was a former captain for the University of Wisconsin-Stout basketball team and an Ironman athlete. The travel company confirmed her death and said the others on the plane were Backroads clients.
Geissler lived in St. Paul until May when she started her new job as a trip leader at Backroads, said friend and former assistant basketball coach Erin Sullivan.
"She was really happy. She was doing something she loved at that moment — taking people out on adventures and showing people the cool things in the world," said Sullivan, now an associate athlete director at University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Sullivan, who coached both Amanda Geissler and her sister Lindsey, said she had spoken with the family.
"They are a very close family. My heart is breaking for them," Sullivan said. "Her family was very proud of her. They want people to know about her love of life."
News of the crash spread quickly in her hometown of Thorp, Wis., about two hours east of the Twin Cities.
Thorp Public Schools Superintendent John Humphries said Amanda Geissler was the daughter of sixth-grade teacher Jeff Geissler. Staff have been informed of the tragedy.
Aviation officials in Costa Rica reported that the Nature Air plane crashed minutes after takeoff in a wooded area near the airport in Punta Islita. It wasn't immediately known what caused the crash of the single turboprop Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, though the pilots had reported heavy winds in the area earlier that day.
Ten Americans were among the dead, including families from New York and Florida.
"I was devastated when I heard," said Darlene Burzynski, a resident of Thorp, Wis., who said Amanda, her sister, and their parents Jeff and Cheryl lived nearby on the same block. Burzynski, who winters in Florida, said she received multiple calls and texts starting at midnight.
"The last I heard the girls were doing so good, especially Amanda. Cheryl [Geissler, Amanda's mother] told me how she missed the girls, but they were doing well," Burzynski said.
Geissler earned her bachelor's degree in applied science from Stout in 2007 and her MBA from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2013. She then worked in corporate sales in Milwaukee and the Twin Cities.
According to her résumé, she had volunteered as a teacher and tutor in Peru and Ghana, as well as the United States.
Backroads said in a statement: "Amanda's passion and ability to genuinely connect with people, in addition to her leadership, made her a rising star at Backroads."
The statement said the company has been operating in Costa Rica for more than 25 years.
Rafi Bildner was a friend and co-worker who trained with Geissler in May at Backroads, a tour company that offers hiking, bicycling, rafting and horseback riding adventures.
Bildner said her spirit and enthusiasm were infectious and she was doing what she loved.
"She lived, with a capital L.I.V.E.," he said. "There wasn't a time I was with her when her spirit didn't lift me in some way. I think of her as a physically, mentally and emotionally large human being, one of these people that carries a lot of energy and passion with her."
Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera offered his condolences to the families of the plane-crash victims via Twitter and said the cause of the crash would be investigated.
Forensic workers recovered the bodies from the wooded site Sunday night, Costa Rica aviation officials said. Nature Air did not respond to phone and e-mail messages.
Mark Noll, women's basketball coach at the University of Dubuque, said Geissler played point guard for the University of Wisconsin-Stout when he coached there and he last saw her around Thanksgiving.
"She was home for like 18 hours, and her and her sister came to the tournament" where his team was playing, Noll recalled Monday. "Amanda was a sweetheart, a great player."
Geissler competed in the 2016 Ironman Wisconsin race, which includes swimming, biking and running. In an article on the UW-Stout website, Geissler said she didn't own a bike and couldn't even "put my head under the water" when she began her training but ultimately succeeded by finishing the grueling race.
The Associated Press and Star Tribune staff writer Matt McKinney contributed to this story.