BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) – Five people were killed in a plane crash in Bartow early Christmas Eve morning.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says the group was flying out of the Bartow Municipal Airport to spend Christmas Eve in Key West and was set to return Sunday night. The plane carrying the five victims crashed at 7:15 a.m. after trying to take off in heavy fog.
“Ironically, about an hour later the fog lifted and it’s a beautiful Florida day,” Sheriff Judd said. “Except for those of us who knew and loved this family.”
In a news conference Sunday afternoon, Sheriff Judd identified all five victims.
Pilot: John Shannon
John Shannon was a 70-year-old attorney from Lakeland.
Authorities say he was an accomplished pilot but did not say how long he had been flying.
Friends say he was a single father who raised his daughters alone for most of their lives.
Shannon was a member of the St. Paul Lutheran Church and was very active in Kiwanis. He was also the president of the Republican Club of Lakeland.
The Polk County Republican Party posted a statement on Facebook that reads in part, “We are deeply saddened by John’s loss, and hope that you will join us in extending your thoughts and prayers to all of the Shannon family’s friends, associates and family.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott also expressed his condolences on Twitter, saying he and his wife “are heartbroken to hear of this tragedy.”
Sheriff Judd was friends with Shannon and said, “John Shannon has always been a great advocate, a great attorney. He has always been very involved in the community. People that know John Shannon know that he’s a good man. He’s a good man with a good heart that gives back to the community.”
The sheriff called the Shannon family “absolutely totally wonderful people.”
Passenger: Olivia Shannon
Olivia Shannon, 24, was John Shannon’s daughter.
Sheriff Judd says she was a student at Southeastern University in Lakeland. A friend tells us she was going to school for elementary education and wanted to further her education to eventually become a principal at different military bases around the world.
The friend says Olivia loved kids and helped at the church and school in Lakeland as often as she could. Olivia also worked at her father’s law firm.
She also tells us Olivia was an animal enthusiast.
Passenger: Victoria Shannon-Worthington
Victoria Shannon-Worthington was the 26-year-old daughter of John Shannon.
She lived in Maryland where she was a school teacher for the Baltimore School District. According to the district’s website, she taught fourth grade English Language Arts.
On her teacher page on the Baltimore City Public Schools website, Victoria says she earned her bachelor’s degree from Clemson University then went to Johns Hopkins University for her master’s.
On her page, she wrote, “I believe that the students are the center — the heart and soul — of the classroom, and each student brings a unique perspective to the classroom. As a teacher, it is my responsibility to cultivate their abilities to ensure that they learn and grow into empathetic and independent citizens.”
Sheriff Judd says she and her husband Peter flew down from Baltimore on Saturday to spend the holidays with her father.
Passenger: Peter Worthington Jr.
Peter Worthington Jr., 27, was Victoria’s husband.
He was a third-year law student at the University of Maryland and lived in Baltimore.
Sheriff Judd says this year would have been Peter and Victoria’s first Christmas as a married couple. The newlyweds got married in June 2017.
Passenger: Krista Clayton
Krista Clayton, 32, was a family friend of the Shannons.
She was from Lakeland and was a teacher at the Jewett Academy.
Clayton has two daughters — an 18-month-old and a 3-year-old. Sheriff Judd says neither child was on the flight. They were at home with their father, Clayton’s fiance.