College freshman William Steinberg, 18, was among 10 American tourists who died in a fatal plane crash on Dec. 31. Steinberg, who was traveling in Costa Rica with his family, died when his plane, which was traveling from the resort town of Punta Islita on the Pacific coast, crashed into a mountainous region.
Steinberg’s roommate, Wharton and Engineering freshman Dylan Diamond, said he had been speaking to Steinberg just minutes before he boarded the flight.
“Yesterday was such a tragic shock … it’s still surreal,” Diamond said.
“I was lucky to have found the perfect roommate, which I know is rare, as well as my best friend in college. Readjustment to Penn without him won’t be easy and I can’t imagine doing so, but I know he wants the best and he’ll always be there," he added.
Wharton and Engineering freshman Robert Epstein said he was thinking of living with Steinberg in their sophomore year. Epstein added that he saw Steinberg as “one of those people you instinctively know will be friends with you not just for college, but perhaps for life.”
“Will was just an amazing person,” Epstein said. “He was the type of person you could never find a bad thing to say about. He was driven to succeed, spending nights in, while the rest of us went out, to study for upcoming midterms or do work.”
In an email on Jan. 2, the Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum wrote that Steinberg's aunt, Tammy Steinberg Jacobson described the College freshman as "strong" and "empathetic."
"She described Will as loyal and kind, and she said he loved Penn," the email stated.
Steinberg’s friends also reflected on his kind character.
Or Rozner from Nahariya, Israel, shared a bunk with Steinberg in the summer of 2015 at Seeds of Peace — a camp in Maine where teenagers from around the globe, including the Middle East and South Asia, come together to engage with peers from different cultural and religious backgrounds.
Rozner said Steinberg was one of the most supportive people he met at camp.
“At first, he was kind of quiet, a bit shy, but if you started to get to know him, you’d know he’s crazy funny, with a lot of jokes, and really supportive,” Rozner said. “Every time I was homesick and just feeling bad from something, he was the first person to come and cheer me up with jokes, with conversations."
At Penn, Steinberg was involved in the International Affairs Association and was on the board of the Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Residential Program as part of Ware College House, his friends said.
In the school-wide email, McCoullum encouraged students to reach out to their friends and family for support during this period. She also urged students to "please also let us know how we can best support you as our community grieves together."
The statement added that a remembrance for Steinberg is tentatively being planned for Tuesday, Jan. 9, which is the day before classes officially begin for second semester.
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