Former Wisconsin-Stout Athlete Killed in Costa Rica Plane Crash Remembered

January 01, 2018 10:43 PM

Coaches and teammates were among those mourning the death of a former Wisconsin-Stout basketball standout following news she was one of 12 people killed in a plane crash Sunday in Costa Rica.

A spokesperson for Backroads, an adventure travel company, confirmed Amanda Geissler – who was working as a trip leader – was one of the 10 Americans killed when the plane they were aboard crashed just after takeoff in Nandayure, a region in Costa Rica's Guanacaste province, located on the Pacific coast. 

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RELATED: 10 US Citizens, 2 Locals Killed in Costa Rica Plane Crash

The flight had been bound for the capital of San Jose.

Geissler, a Thorp, Wisconsin native and a point guard at Wisconsin-Stout from 2003-07, had worked for Backroads since May of 2017, according to her Linkedin profile.

A statement from the Geissler family released Monday said she was in Costa Rica leading families "during their Christmas holiday on a tropical adventure including seeing an active volcano, 400-foot waterfall, and many beautiful beaches. She was very excited to be working with families, and was eager to enjoy the sunshine, warm weather, and ocean waves."

That was the kind of passion and zest her former head coach remembered as well.

"She had such an amazing gift for life," said Mark Thomas, the head women's basketball coach at the school the past 31 seasons. "Nothing rattled her. She wasn't afraid of anything. Even if she failed at something, she didn't view it as a failure. It was just a reason to get back up and try again."

Geissler and her sister Lindsey were both members of teams that won three-straight conference titles from 2004-07. And she served as a team captain in both her junior and senior seasons.

"She was always a person who had a genuine love for life," said Erin Sullivan, the school's associate athletic director and an assistant women's basketball coach from 2003-07.

"She dreamed big and she wanted to live a life filled with adventure. A life filled with travels."

Sullivan said that was what brought her to Costa Rica.

"She wanted to see the whole world," Sullivan said. "And she wanted to show other people the whole world too."

Jason Moe of Prior Lake grew up with Geissler in Throp, Wisconsin.

"It's just horrible, I mean horrible news," Moe said. "She was just always a sweet girl – that's how I knew her growing up. I just think it's a feeling of shock, of how their family must be feeling."  

A family in the suburbs of New York City said five of the other Americans dead were relatives on vacation. They identified them as Bruce and Irene Steinberg and their sons Matthew, William and Zachary, all of Scarsdale.

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."

At a news conference Sunday, Enio Cubillo, director of Costa Rica Civil Aviation, said the Nature Air charter crashed shortly after taking off just after noon Sunday from Punta Islita on a planned flight to the capital of San Jose. He said investigators were looking into possible causes.

Back in Menomonie, Thomas said a number of Geissler's former teammates were gathering Monday afternoon to remember her.

"She's one of the greatest people I've ever been around," he said. "Amanda had an amazing way of touching all of our lives. Whether it was by passing a basketball, through her personality, or for whatever other reason. She had a huge impact on so many people here.

"My heart just aches for her family. They're such an amazing group of people. Her Mom and Dad were so wonderfully supportive of their daughters, and of our entire team. You couldn't ask for better parents as a coach."

Her family's statement Monday praised Geissler's "passion for life and adventurous spirit."

"Amanda is hard to describe in a short paragraph or a simple word or phrase," the statement read in part. "She was so much more than that. Her passion for life and adventurous spirit allowed her to truly live and experience more in her 33 years of life than many have the opportunity to.

"Amanda's love for the outdoors, setting goals and crushing them, and adoration for her family and friends are like non-other. Amanda was one of the most mentally tough athletes around, and her desire for 'what's next' always turned into a check mark on her list.

"Amanda lived her life with no regrets and inspired so many others to consider the same. She is loved by many, and with a heavy heart it will be hard to say goodbye. If Amanda could leave us all with one thing it would be – write down whatever it is you want to do…and make it happen."

The Associated Press and ABC News contributed to this story.

Credits

Frank Rajkowski and Joe Mazan

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