GUANACASTE, Costa Rica - A Wisconsin woman working as a vacation travel leader died in a small plane crash in Costa Rica on Sunday, along with nine guests and two flight crew members.
"She wasn't afraid of taking a chance. And, she took the responsibility with that chance," said Amanda Geissler's father, Jeff. "She had so many people that loved her, though."
Jeff, Geissler's mother Cheryl, and her sister Lindsey Carlyle shared memories about her to NBC News.
"Everybody was her person," said Lindsey. "She could relate to everybody on some level. It's why she was so special."
Geissler played basketball from 2003 to 2007 at University of Wisconsin-Stout, where she gained a reputation as a scrappy guard. She was a team captain both her junior and senior years. "My heart is just breaking for her family, they're such a great, close-knit family," said Erin Sullivan, an assistant basketball coach at Stout.
The Costa Rica Public Safety Ministry posted photographs and video of the crash site showing burning wreckage of the plane in a wooded area of Guanacaste, northwest Costa Rica.
At a news conference, Enio Cubillo, director of Costa Rica Civil Aviation, said the Nature Air charter flight took off just after noon Sunday from Punta Islita and was headed for the capital of San Jose when it crashed.
Cubillo said the cause was under investigation.
He identified the pilot as Juan Manuel Retana and described him as very experienced. Former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said via Twitter that Retana was her cousin.
Geissler's family said she had seen many beautiful places in her several months working for Backroads. Her most recent placement was leading families on trips to Costa Rica during their Christmas vacations. The trips included visits to an active volcano, a 400-foot waterfall, and beaches.
Lindsey Carlyle said her sister lived a life of travel, adventure and giving back to others.
“She sold everything from her apartment in Minneapolis," Carlyle said. "She doesn't have a car. She had nothing and she just was going to go and live. And she did.”
Carlyle said her sister took a voluntary layoff from her job, which sparked a trip to Peru, and later helped her career in travel.
They said Geissler loved the outdoors, setting goals and "crushing them," and her family and friends.
"She could get people to do things that they didn't think they could do," her father said. "She could do things and move people."
"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," said the family's statement.
The family said if Geissler could leave people one piece of advice, it would be "write down whatever it is you want to do... and make it happen."
Backroads provided a statement to KARE 11, saying, "We are extremely heartbroken over this horrific loss of life and are working with the local authorities to understand the cause of the crash."
They said of Geissler, "Amanda was a first-year trip leader at Backroads, but despite her short tenure she built strong bonds and community among both fellow leaders, and guests alike. ... Amanda's passion and ability to genuinely connect with people, in addition to her leadership, made her a rising star at Backroads."