Rescuers in a remote, mountainous region of Panama struggled Wednesday to evacuate a 12-year-old American girl, the only survivor of a small plane crash that killed a California businessman, his teenage daughter and their Panamanian pilot.
The bodies of Michael Klein, 37, Talia Klein, 13, and pilot Edwin Lasso, 23, were found Tuesday afternoon in an uninhabited region known as Las Ovejas, 270 miles west of the capital, Panama's civil protection agency said.
The family of Francesca Lewis - a friend of Talia's who was traveling with the Kleins - gathered at a soccer field near the crash scene awaiting a helicopter that will evacuate her.
Michael Klein, the chief executive officer of Pacificor LLC, a Santa Barbara, California-based company that manages several hedge funds, founded two companies in the 1990s before becoming president and CEO of eGroups Inc., which was the world's largest group e-mail communication service. Yahoo Inc. purchased eGroups for US$450 million in August 2000 and it is now known as Yahoo Groups.
A colleague described Michael Klein as a brilliant businessman who skipped high school and graduated from college at age 17.
"One of the most interesting people you could ever speak to on any ... in a myriad of subjects," Kurt Benjamin, the vice president of business development at Pacificor, told KNBC-TV in Los Angeles. "He's just an unbelievable individual."
Rescuers were giving medical attention late Tuesday night to the surviving girl in a makeshift shelter, said Jose Henriquez, a prosecutor in the Chiriqui state capital of David who is handling the investigation.
Officials said she suffered multiple injuries and hypothermia, and cold, wet weather prevented authorities from evacuating her immediately. Henriquez said he didn't know the extent of her injuries or whether they were life-threatening.
The wreckage from the accident was in a hard-to-reach site on the slope of the Baru volcano, at an altitude of some 3,500 feet, the civil aviation authority said.
Aviation authorities said the cause of the crash was not yet known, but RPC radio reported that witnesses saw the plane flying at a very low altitude in strong winds around noon Sunday.
Klein was on vacation with the two girls at an eco-resort he owns in the Central American nation, according to Kim Klein, his ex-wife and Talia's mother. The three had been scheduled to return to Santa Barbara on Monday, she told the AP from Boquete, Panama.
Kim Klein traveled to Panama Monday morning and spoke with authorities about the possible whereabouts of the aircraft. She had offered US$25,000 to anyone who could locate it.