Plano resident coming to terms with loss after Costa Rica tragedy
By Shari Stern
Special to the TJP
Any time you lose a special friend, it’s tough. But if you’re a child who loses a special friend, that’s just not fair.
Ethan Fine, of Plano, can tell you all about it as he recently lost his buddy, Ari Weiss. Ari and his family, his parents Leslie and Mitchell Weiss and Ari’s sister Hannah Weiss, perished when aboard a small plane that crashed in Costa Rica on Dec. 31. The entire family from Belleair, Florida perished.
Ari had a penchant for the guitar and entertaining, “Ari lit up the camp through music, playing guitar, bass and piano at concerts. It’s not an exaggeration to say he was a rock star,” Camp Director Geoff Menkowitz told JTA.
He added, “This made Ari a big name throughout the camp, even among those who were not in his immediate circle of friends.”
Mitchell and Leslie Weiss were both physicians; their daughter, Hannah, 19 and son, Ari, 16 were members of Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The nine victims were among 12 casualties — 10 U.S. tourists and two local crew members — in the accident in Guanacaste. Costa Rican investigators said afterward that the cause was probably strong winds or mechanical problems, The Associated Press reported. The second family was the Steinbergs of Scarsdale, which is a suburb of New York City.
Hannah Weiss was a sophomore enrolled in a joint program at Columbia University and List College, the undergraduate school of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). She cared deeply about the environment.
Before moving to New York, Hannah spent summers at Camp Ramah Darom, a Conservative Jewish summer camp in Clayton, Georgia. Her brother Ari Weiss also attended the camp, along with his friend, Ethan Fine of Plano. “They were really stars, the two of them, just shining bright,” Menkowitz said. “It’s a huge loss that we are all reeling from and heartbroken from right now.”
Ethan and Ari met at camp in 2011. They didn’t become friends right away. They were in different cabins. But the next summer, 2012, they became tight, and they texted and visited each other during the school years.
Understandably, Ethan said he was in shock when he learned the tragic news. One of his friends texted him the newspaper article. He said about his friend, “What I will miss most about Ari is how caring a person he was. He always looked out for everyone.”
Camp Ramah Darom established a fund in memory of the Weiss family last week.
The Weiss Family Scholarship Fund was created at the request of relatives of the Weiss family. It will be used “to enable other campers to experience the magic of Ramah,” the camp website said.
A service for the family was held Jan. 9 in Tampa. Ethan was asked to speak at the memorial service. Ethan, now in 10th grade at Shepton High School, asks that contributions be made to the Weiss Family Scholarship fund at Camp Ramah Darom. You can mail donations to 70 Camp Darom, Clayton, GA 30525 or call 404-531-0801.
JTA contributed to this report.