Friends mourning loss of Bartow plane crash victims

BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) — Friends are in mourning this Christmas Eve after five people lost their lives in a plane crash in Bartow.

“It just like, overwhelmed me. It was unbelievable,” Harley Richards said, talking about when he learned of the crash.

Richards knew the pilot, 70-year-old John Shannon, for about 30 years.

“John was a solid guy. He was an excellent attorney, an excellent pilot, great guy, great father, good community man,” said Richards. “I just can’t say enough good about him.”

John’s daughters, who also died in the crash, were in their 20s. They went to grade school with Richards’ children.

“Everybody in the community knew John. [He was] just one of those all-around good guys,” said Richards. “All of us are suffering.”

Kimberly Reddick feels the same pain. She lost a friend too — 32-year-old Krista Clayton.

“We’ve been on many journeys,” recalls Reddick. “We have been to Europe together. We’ve seen our children grow together. She is just an amazing person.”

They met nearly 9 years ago teaching. Krista was the gifted teacher at Jewett School of the Arts in Winter Haven.

“She touched many many students’ lives,” Reddick tells us. “I have had tons of kids messaging me on Facebook. That is how much they loved her.”

Krista leaves behind a family.

“She has two little girls that her world revolves around and to even think of them not having her is just horrible,” said Reddick.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation but the Barlow Municipal Airport was thick with fog on the morning of Christmas Eve.

The Polk County Sheriff is questioning whether or not it played a role in the crash. Krista’s family and Richards tell us they doubt it.

“[John] was not someone who, in my opinion, would do rash things, spur-of-the-moment kind of things,” Richards said. “I think that when John made the decision to go he made that decision based off a sound knowledge of his ability as a pilot. I know that he would never do anything to jeopardize the life of his daughters and I just have to believe that something happened and it was beyond John’s control.”

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