Five dead in Christmas Eve plane crash

Five dead in Christmas Eve plane crash

The Polk County Sheriff's Office says a twin-engine plane crashed Sunday morning at the end of a runway at Bartow Municipal Airport. They also say, along with them was the pilot's other daughter, 24-year-old Olivia Shannon, a Southern University student, and a family friend, 32-year-old Krista Clayton.

The plane was engulfed in flames by the time fire rescue crews arrived, Polk County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Tina Mann said in a statement. They didn't get to the crash scene until 13 minutes later and it took another 12 minutes to knock down the intense fire.

John Shannon, 70, was piloting the twin-engine plane for a day trip to Key West, said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd to reporters Sunday afternoon.

"It's a tragedy of monumental proportions when it happens on Christmas Eve", said Judd, who said he had been friends with John Shannon for years.

"Ironically, about an hour later the fog lifted and it's a lovely Florida day", Sheriff Judd said.

A photographer who was trying to capture the fog at sunrise was recording video that shows the crash, Judd said.

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The sheriff's office identified the pilot as Lakeland attorney John Shannon.

Olivia Shannon attended Southeastern University, a private Christian college in Lakeland. The couple had just arrived in town on Saturday for the holidays, from Baltimore, where they live.

Liguori said that John Shannon, a longtime personal injury lawyer, changed his lifestyle after he separated from the daughters' mother when they were young.

"I have reviewed some footage, and clearly no one should have tried to a takeoff from this airport at 7:15 this morning", Judd said during a press conference this morning. In 2010 he received his pilot's license and flew regularly, including on trips to Alabama to visit a daughter in college, Liguori said. The sheriff - at times becoming emotional while speaking of his friend - said he was told Shannon brought cookies for the Bartow airport staff. But he added that the weather was foggy "and not conducive for taking off".

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration will further investigate the cause of the crash.

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