Polk County Sheriff
December 24, 2017 05:22 PM

Five people perished in a fiery crash on the runway of a Florida airport on Sunday, just a day before the Christmas holiday.

Four members of one family, along with a family friend, boarded a twin-engine Cessna 340 just before 7 a.m. local time, Sunday, at Bartow Municipal Airport in Florida, according to the Polk County Sheriff.

The pilot, 70-year-old John Shannon, a local attorney, attempted to take off in dense fog but crashed at the end of the runway. Polk County Fire Rescue personnel then responded to the ensuing fire, and it was determined Shannon and his passengers — which included his two daughters: 24-year-old Olivia Shannon and 26-year-old Victoria Shannon Worthington, as well as Worthington’s husband 27-year-old Peter Worthington Jr., and family friend, 32-year-old Krista Clayton — all died on impact or shortly after.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Shannon, Worthington, and Clayton families. This is a tragedy any time, but it is so much worse because it happened on Christmas Eve,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement, released on Twitter. “We are providing all of our resources to assist them with anything they need to help them get through this horrific tragedy.”

According to officials, Shannon intended to fly to Key West on Christmas Eve morning, and Victoria, a Baltimore school teacher, and her husband, Peter, a law student at the University of Maryland, had arrived in Florida on Saturday to spend time with family for the holidays.

Shannon’s daughter, Olivia, was a student at Southeastern University in Lakeland, and family friend, Clayton, was a teacher at Jewett Academy in Lakeland and a mother of two. Shannon was president of the local Kiwanis Club and president of The Republican Club of Lakeland, according to a statement from officials.

Autopsies will be conducted this week to determine their causes of death, Judd said. As of now, the crash is likely linked to the heavy fog that engulfed the area Sunday morning.

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“I have reviewed some footage, and clearly no one should have tried to a takeoff from this airport at 7:15 this morning,” Judd said during a press conference. “The airport was totally socked in with fog.”

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the accident going forward.

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