Memorial services announced for Christmas Eve Bartow plane crash victims

By Stephanie Claytor, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 27, 2017, 10:06 PM EST

There will be two memorial services for the five people who died in a plane crash on Christmas Eve at the Bartow Municipal Airport.

  • Both services will be held on Jan. 6
  • 1st service at 10:30 a.m. for pilot, daughters, daughter's husband
  • 2nd service at 4 p.m. for family friend Krista Clayton

Both services will be held on Jan. 6, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Lakeland where four of the five people who died in the crash attended.

The first service will be held at 10:30 a.m., honoring the lives of the pilot, John Shannon and his daughters, Olivia and Tori, and Tori’s husband, Peter Worthington Jr.

The second service will be held at 4 p.m. at the church for family friend Krista Clayton, who also died in the crash.

Teacher of gifted students

Clayton worked at Jewett School of the Arts in Winter Haven. She taught more than 80 gifted students there, ranging from grades K-5.

Her coworker and best friend, Kimberly Reddick, said the school is planning to do a balloon release in her honor, as well as have students plant a tree in her honor in the school’s garden.

Reddick shared morning duties with Clayton every morning. The two knew each other for more than eight years, and first met when Clayton taught at Discovery Academy of Lake Alfred.

“I called her 'little sis' and she called be 'big sis.' We worked on things together every day,” said Reddick. “She was the one person that if I needed help on anything or she needed help on anything, you know we were the go-to. It’s always been that way.”

Reddick said it hasn’t really hit her yet that Clayton is gone, since they’re still out of school on Christmas break.

“I think it’s going to be not good when we get back,” Reddick said, fighting the tears.

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

She said the students are going to have a tough time too, adjusting to school days without Clayton and her hands-on lessons.

“They were shooting off rockets outside. If you didn’t get it just right, you got splattered. Some of the kids got a little wet. That was one of the recent things she did,” Reddick recalled.

Reddick also recalled memories of Clayton dressing up in costume and teaching students how to make mummies as they learned about ancient Egypt.

Reddick said she and Clayton also spent time together outside the classroom, and even traveled to Europe together. She called Clayton a world traveler and her tour guide.

She said Clayton was very spontaneous and had flown with the pilot, John Shannon, numerous times before.

“I know she had flown in the small aircraft many times, just to go get breakfast," Reddick said. "Just like that day they were going to get lunch. That was nothing new for her."

Still waiting for answers

An autopsy revealed the four passengers died from blunt force trauma, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators are still waiting toxicology results for pilot John Shannon before determining his cause of death.

While Reddick waits for answers surrounding why the plane crashed, she’s spending time with Clayton’s fiancé and daughters.

“He asked me to gather all of her belongings at the school, and then he started to tear up,” Reddick said. “I said, 'No problem. I will do whatever you need me to do.' He’s really trying to stay focused on the girls. That is his first priority.”

Reddick said her priority is consoling Clayton’s daughters and her students as they work through this hard time.

“She definitely had a thing for troubled kids," Reddick explained. "You know, even though she worked with the gifted kids, she still touched many lives throughout the school even if she didn’t have the kids in her class."

The National Transportation Safety Board’s spokesman said contractors have moved the plane to one of its facilities to be analyzed. Its investigators have also interviewed witnesses.

A preliminary report on the crash should be available next week.