NASSAU, Bahamas | A Valparaiso-area woman was among four people who died Sunday in a small plane crash off the Bahamas' northernmost island.
Cynthia Mierzwa, of Union Township, died in the crash, according to her ex-husband, Crete resident Fred Mierzwa.
Police Superintendent Stephen Dean said the single-engine plane crashed in waters a few miles off Grand Bahama island and all four people aboard were killed.
Fred Mierzwa spoke Monday on behalf their son, Abe Mierzwa of Crete, and daughter, Marisa Balmer, of San Diego.
He said the family was notified by Bahamian officials that Cynthia was a passenger on a small plane along with another couple who were sightseeing. He was told the pilot of the plane reported engine failure and the plane soon crashed into the ocean.
He said he was told search and rescue crews recovered all the bodies and autopsies were being performed Monday.
Fred Mierzwa said Cynthia Mierzwa, 62, was a longtime neonatal nurse who worked at several hospitals in Chicago’s south suburbs. He said she was currently a home health care practitioner with Franciscan St. James Health in Chicago Heights.
Fred Mierzwa said she was traveling with her current partner, Kent Hill, of Valparaiso.
She is survived by her son Abe Mierzwa, of Crete, and daughter Marisa Balmer, of San Diego.
Fred Mierzwa said Cynthia Mierzwa grew up in Hazel Crest and graduated from Thornton High School and Thornton Community College.
“She was a beautiful person inside and out,” he said. “She was well loved and respected. She was the epitome of a caregiver.”
Bob Lendi, 66, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he went to high school with Fred Mierzwa and their children grew up together. He said he mostly kept in contact with Cynthia Mierzwa through social media, but he and his wife saw her a few times a year.
"Cindy was a first-class lady," he said. "She was a bubbly, fun-loving person that was always ready for a new adventure."
Earlier this weekend he saw she posted a photo on Facebook of herself with a group of women in the Bahamas. He said he was shocked Sunday morning when he heard the news of her death.
"This is more of a loss of a family member, Cindy was like a sister to me," he said. "I'm just at a loss for words."
His son, Bobby Lendi, said he told Cynthia Mierzwa last time he saw her that he wanted to be like her when he got older because a visit to her Facebook page was like watching the Travel Channel.
"She was climbing mountains, sailing through icebergs," he said. "She was the female version of Indiana Jones."
Bobby Lendi said Cynthia Mierzwa was an interesting woman and a great mother. Some of his earliest memories are walking around a pond with her at the Mierzwa house in Crete.
Emrick Seymour, assistant police commissioner for Grand Bahama, said the Cirrus 22 plane crashed minutes after takeoff from the island's international airport. He said the pilot radioed that the plane was "experiencing some engine problems."
A statement from the Royal Bahamas Police Force said the aircraft was destroyed.
Information about the victims' identities was not immediately provided by Bahamian authorities. Seymour said police were "right in the middle of the investigation."
WTHR-TV and WRTV-TV report the airplane involved in the crash, a Cirrus 22, was registered to First Class Flyers LLC, based in Cicero, Ind.
The Associated Press and Times Staff Writer Elvia Malagon contributed to this report.