On Sunday, December 24, 2017, PCSO and Polk County Fire Rescue personnel responded to a small plane crash at the Bartow Airbase that resulted in five deaths.
Preliminary information is that the twin-engine private Cessna 340 twin-engine plane was pulled out of the hangar around 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, December 24, 2017. The plane took off around 7:15 a.m. heading east, into heavy fog. For unknown reasons, it crashed shortly after takeoff.
The crash occurred near the PCSO Aviation Unit hangar, which is on Ben Durrance Road (cross street Bomber Road) in unincorporated Polk County. The crash was called in via radio to the PCSO Emergency Communications Center by PCSO Aviation staff. There was a fire after the plane crashed, which was put out by Polk County Fire Rescue personnel. Everyone on board perished.
The following five adult victims were on-board the plane:
The pilot, 70-year-old John Shannon, a local attorney from Lakeland;
John's daughter, 24-year-old Olivia Shannon, a Southeastern University student, of Lakeland;
John's daughter, 26-year-old Victoria Shannon Worthington, a Baltimore school teacher, of Baltimore, MD;
Victoria's husband, 27-year-old Peter Worthington, Jr., a third year law student at the University of Maryland, of Baltimore, MD;
Family friend, 32-year-old Krista Clayton, a local teacher at Jewett Academy, of Lakeland.
The pilot, John Shannon, filed a flight plan that morning to fly to Key West. His daughter and her husband arrived in town on December 23rd for the holidays from Baltimore, where they live. Krista joined the family on the trip.
All of the victims perished upon or immediately after impact. Autopsies were conducted to determine their exact causes of death, and the four passengers' causes of death were ruled blunt force trauma, and all four passengers' manners of death were ruled accidental. John Shannon's cause and manner of death are both pending toxicology.
The NTSB is investigating the cause of the crash.
"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." - Grady Judd, Sheriff