Five people killed in plane crash at Bartow Airport, officials say

By Stephanie Claytor and Tim Wronka, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Monday, December 25, 2017, 10:40 AM EST

Five people were killed in a small plane crash at Bartow Municipal Airport Sunday morning. 

  • Five people were killed in a plane crash Sunday morning
  • Four family members and a family friend died
  • The plane crashed after taking off at Bartow Airport

Four of them were family members and the fifth was a family friend. 

Officials received the call around 7:30 a.m. and responded to the airport to find a plane fully engulfed in flames. Polk Fire Rescue was able to quickly get the flames under control.

The Polk Sheriff's Office said a Cessna 340 twin-engine plane crashed at the end of the runway near Ben Durrance Road, located just off of US 17 near Spirit Lake Road. 

The plane took off around 7:15 a.m. heading east, into heavy fog, and crashed shortly after takeoff. Officials said they believe fog was a factor in the crash. 

The pilot has been identified as John Shannon, 70, a local attorney from Lakeland. Two of the passengers on board were Shannon's daughters, Olivia Shannon, 24, and Victoria Shannon Worthington, 26. Olivia is a Southeastern University student and Victoria is a school teacher in Baltimore. 

The third passenger was Peter Worthington, 27, Victoria's husband. He is a third year law student at the University of Maryland, and he and Victoria were reportedly newlyweds, spending their first Christmas together.

The fourth passenger on board was a friend of the family's, Krista Clayton, 32, who is a teacher at Jewett School of the Arts in Polk County. She leaves behind two children and a fiance. 

"It breaks our hearts," said Sheriff Grady Judd. "It's a tragedy of monumental proportions."

Sheriff Judd said they were flying to Key West for a day trip. 

"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," Sheriff Judd said. 

Sheriff Judd also said that John Shannon was an accomplished pilot who was a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church and was the president of the Republican Club of Lakeland.

"He's a man with a good heart who gives back to the community," he said.

One of Shannon's pilots witnessed the crash and was stunned to see a plane attempt to take off in the fog.  

The Polk County Sheriff's Office will conduct the death investigations and the NTSB and FAA will investigate the cause of the crash. 

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.