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Christmas Eve crash kills all 5 aboard twin engine plane

Heavy fog covered runway in Florida

Posted: Dec 24, 2017 2:50 PM

(ABC News) Five people died after a twin-engine plane trying to take off in heavy fog crashed at the end of a runway at an airport in central Florida, causing a "huge fire", authorities said.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said there were "no survivors" of the crash at Bartow Municipal Airport in Bartow, Florida. His office said in an earlier statement that "there are several deaths."

In a news release, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said local attorney John Shannon, 70, was the pilot. Also onboard, Shannon’s daughters -- Olivia, 24, and Victoria, 26. The passengers also included Victoria’s husband, Peter Worthington Jr., 27, and family friend Krista Clayton, 32.

"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. "The airport was totally socked in with fog."

About the pilot, Sheriff Judd said, "I have known him for years and years and years."

The NTSB is investigating the crash, and Judd said his officers were assisted in their response by the county fire department.

"We were assisted by Polk Fire Rescue, which put out the fire. We know upon impact that there was a huge fire,” the sheriff said.
Judd added, "I am not a plane crash investigator but from all indications the plane was in the air and came back to the ground. And no there was no survivors, no chance of anyone surviving.”

As Polk County Fire and Rescue personnel headed to the crash site they had trouble spotting the wreckage, according to radio transcriptions reviewed by ABC News.

In one dispatch, a firefighter described the limited visibility.

"Engine 461, Battalion 4, we're on scene now at the air base... it's really foggy. We're unable to see it from our location, I'm going to try to make it out onto the airfield," the responder radioed.

Another dispatch also discussed the foggy conditions.

"I do see Polk County Fire units, unfortunately on the runway the fog is so low we can't see anything on the runway and are investigating and we did not see or come across any pilots or planes on the runway at this time," the transcription said.

Once Polk County Fire and Rescue member found the plane wreckage, the plane was "fully engulfed."

In one Polk County Sheriff's Office tweet, the sheriff asked for the community to remember the victims.

"This is an absolutely horrific tragedy, especially on Christmas Eve. Please keep these victims and their family members are in your prayers."

The airport once served as the Bartow Army Air Field during World War II, according to its museum's website.

After the war, the complex functioned as a "flight school training cadets for military service" before it was turned over to the city of Bartow, the website says.

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