Lakeland attorney John Shannon and his two daughters were among five people killed in the crash of a twin-engine plane at the Bartow Municipal Airport Sunday morning.
According to the Polk County Sheriff's Office, the Cessna 340 crashed at the end of a runway near Ben Durrance Road, about 7:15 a.m.. Officials say the plane was starting to take off in fog that provided little or no visibility.
Witnesses said a large fire erupted at the end of the runway when the plane crashed. There were no survivors.
"When you look at the crash, the only thing you can say is that nobody suffered," Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said. It's believed all the victims died on impact or immediately afterwards.
At a Sunday afternoon news conference, Judd announced that the crash killed the pilot, Shannon, 70; his daughters, Olivia Shannon, 24, a student at Southeastern University in Lakeland; Victoria Shannon Worthington, 26, a school teacher in Baltimore, MD; her husband, Peter Worthington, 27, a law student at the University of Maryland; and family friend, Krista Clayton, 32, a teacher in Polk County.
Clayton leaves behind two children, a three-year-old and an 18-month-old.
"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. We are providing all of our resources to assist them with anything they need to help them get through this horrific tragedy."
Judd said he has personally known John Shannon, the President of the Republican Club of Lakeland, for years. Shannon had filed a flight plan this morning to fly to Key West for an apparent Christmas Eve day trip.
Judd said an airport employee captured video of the plane taking off. The employee was reportedly taking photos of the thick fog at the airport at the time.
The airport, which was once a U.S. Air Force Base known as Bartow Air Base, is located off of U.S. Highway 17 near Spirit Lake Road.
Sheriff's officials are conducting the death investigations, while representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are in charge of investigating the crash.