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Five killed in fiery plane crash in Bartow on Christmas Eve, fog investigated as a factor

Posted: 9:15 AM, Dec 24, 2017
Updated: 2017-12-26 06:02:09-05
Dead reported in small plane crash in Bartow
Dead reported in small plane crash in Bartow
Dead reported in small plane crash in Bartow
Dead reported in small plane crash in Bartow

BARTOW, Fla. — Five people were killed on Christmas even in a fatal twin-engine plane crash near the Bartow Airbase.

The crash occurred at the end of a runway near Ben Durrance Road in Bartow in heavy fog, a Polk County sheriff's release said.

Irving Smith lives near the airport and said he "I heard a loud boom, and I said what was that, I said I don't know but it sounded like something blew up."

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Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said five people died in the crash.  

"There was no chance of survival, ever, and the crash is so horrific that no one suffered," Sheriff Grady Judd said.

Judd said he personally knew one of the victims. Judd's friend, Lakeland attorney John Shannon, and four others were on the plane at the time of the crash.

The victims were identified as followed:

  • John Shannon, 70, who piloting the plane
  • Olivia Shannon, John's 24-year-old daughter a Southeastern University student, of Lakeland
  • Victoria Shannon Worthington, John's 26-year-old daughter, a school teacher in Baltimore
  • Peter Worthington, Jr., Victoria Worthington's 27-year-old husband, a third-year law student at the University of Maryland, also of Baltimore
  • Krista Clayton, a 32-year-old family friend and local teacher at Jewett Academy, of Lakeland

John Shannon had filed a flight plan Sunday morning to fly to Key West. 

His daughter, Victoria, and her husband arrived in town from Baltimore Saturday for the holidays. Clayton was joining the family on the trip.

Autopsies will be conducted later this week to determine their exact causes of death.

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The small plane, a Cessna 340, pulled out of the hangar at the Bartow Airbase about 6:30 a.m., a release said.

Based on a preliminary investigation, the plane took off about 7:15 a.m. heading east in heavy fog.  

For unknown reasons, the plane crashed shortly after takeoff then erupted in flames. The release said the crash was "likely related to the fog."

Polk County firefighters put out the fire. All on board the plane perished upon or immediately after impact. 

Judd said he reviewed video and, "No one should have taken off from this airport at 7:15 a.m."

Judd went on to say the airport was saturated with fog.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office is conducting a death investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the plane crash.