A prominent Florida attorney and his daughters were killed in a heartbreaking plane crash on Christmas Eve after crashing his small plane moments after take-off, an accident that authorities are tentatively blaming on the thick morning fog that had descended on the runway.
John Shannon, 70, died on impact alongside his daughters, 26-year-old Victoria Shannon Worthington and 24-year-old Olivia Shannon, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Also aboard the Cessna 340 were Victoria’s husband, 27-year-old Peter Worthington Jr., and family friend Krista Clayton, 32.
“It breaks our heart,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said of the accident. He described John Shannon as a personal friend.
The Shannon family planned to travel from Polk County to Key West, a 45-minute flight, so they could spend Christmas Eve in a sunnier environment. John Shannon was a well-known lawyer in Lakeland who once ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives; Victoria Shannon Worthington was a teacher in Baltimore; and Olivia Shannon was a student at Southeastern University in Lakeland.
Authorities are unclear what caused the crash. One airport employee who witnessed and filmed part of the accident was in shock “that they were taking off in this fog.”
“I’m just stunned, I think like everybody else,” said Ben Hardin, a close friend of the Shannon family. “John was as fine and caring of a person as you would ever meet.”
Hardin once flew with Shannon to Tallahassee and recalled that he was extremely cautious in the cockpit, going so far as to ask Hardin not to talk during take-off. Shannon got his private pilot’s certificate in 2010 and was remembered by friends as an accomplished pilot.
The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash, while the Polk County Sheriff’s Office will investigate the deaths.