Update News: Flight in Florida in thick fog killed 5 people on Christmas Eve
He arrived at about 6:30 am on Sunday carrying small gifts that the staff of the Florida airport wanted. (On Christmas Eve, they are biscuits)
He also dropped a flight plan showing he would lose a 45 minute flight to the Florida Keys for a family vacation before returning later in the day.
But right after taking off in the thick fog near Tampa, the pilot, John H. Shannon, 70, and four others – including two daughters – were killed in the crash. The two-engine aircraft caught fire after landing at Bartow Municipal Airport in Polk County, Fla.
The Cessna plane, despite heavy fog, hit the airport just before sunrise and had limited visibility to less than a fifth of the mile.
“No one should try to take off in a small plane in that weather,” said Grady Judd, Polk County Sheriff, at a news conference on Sunday.
Sherdddd said an airport employee was filming fog on his cell phone recording the sound of the plane taking off. The mist was so thick that the plane could not be seen in the video, he said.
Shannon’s two sons, Olivia Shannon, 24, and Victoria Shannon Worthington, 26, as well as Worthington’s husband, Peter Worthington, are 27. A family friend, Krista Clayton, 32, was also on board, officials said. The group planned to have lunch at Key West.
Sheriff Judd, who said he had been friends with Shannon for many years, was a catastrophic event on Christmas Eve.
Mr. Shannon had planned to travel from Lakeland, Fla., Where he lived, to the Florida Keys along with his daughters for the holidays, John Liguori, a friend. On the coffee a few days ago, Mr. Shannon told him that he would depart on Christmas Eve or Christmas, depending on the weather.
“More than this flight, he wants to be with his two daughters and his daughter’s husband,” said Liguori, a lawyer in Lakeland.
Mrs. Worthington and her husband arrived in Baltimore on Friday, where they lived. She studied English in grade four at a Baltimore public school, and Worthington attended law school. They were married in June, and her father’s Facebook photo shows him along with his daughter at her wedding.
Ms. Shannon attended Southeastern University, a private Christian college in Lakeland. Ms. Clayton, a high school teacher, had a husband and two children – a 3-year-old girl and an 18-month-old girl.
Mr Liguori has said that Shannon, a longtime personal injury lawyer, has changed his lifestyle after being separated from his daughter’s mother when he was young. He gave up the golf course and devoted himself to them, he said. Mr Liguori said Shannon had another daughter from a previous marriage.
Shannon is still practicing law, and has also embraced two other passions: politics and aircraft. He ran for the Florida state representative in 2014 as a Republican and lost in the primary election under 175 votes. In 2010, he received his license to fly his plane and fly regularly, including a trip to Alabama to visit his college daughter, Liguori said.
He said that Mr. Shannon, the former Marine, had practiced his law and flew seriously. “He’s very focused on the fly,” he said.
On the morning of Sunday, the Cessna 340 dropped off the runway but quickly fell to the ground, officials said. A deputy of the police who answered the 911 call found the debris in the flames in a field.
The cause of the accident is being investigated. However, Judd said the fog seemed to be a factor in the accident. About 45 minutes before the plane took off, the National Weather Service in Tampa showed low visibility at regional airports and fog deteriorated after the sun rose. Visibility at Bartow Airport is 0.15 miles at 7:15 pm, the weather forecast said.
“It’s generous,” said Cindy Barrow, executive director of Bartow Airport, in an interview. “What I understand is that visibility has been pretty much zero.”
Barrow said the control tower was closed on Christmas Eve, but pilots like Shannon could decide to take off. She notes that pilots who fly under these conditions must be experienced as they must use aircraft equipment, as opposed to looking out, to determine speed, altitude and direction.
Sheriff Judd said a pilot with the Polk County Police Department was at the airport at the time of the accident telling him that the conditions were not safe for the small plane. “The conditions were not favorable for taking off this morning,” the sheriff said.
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