He arrived round 6:30 a.m. on Sunday bearing the small presents that the workers at a municipal Florida airport had come to count on from him. (On Christmas Eve, they have been cookies.)
He additionally dropped off a flight plan that indicated he would take an roughly 45-minute flight to the Florida Keys for a household getaway earlier than returning later within the day.
However shortly after taking off in dense fog close to Tampa, the pilot, John H. Shannon, 70, and 4 others — together with two of his daughters — have been killed in a crash, the authorities mentioned. The dual-engine airplane burst into flames after taking place at Bartow Municipal Airport in Polk County, Fla.
The Cessna plane took off regardless of thick fog that had settled over the airport shortly earlier than dawn and had restricted visibility to lower than one-fifth of a mile.
“Nobody ought to have tried to take off in a small airplane in that climate,” Grady Judd, the Polk County sheriff, mentioned at a information convention on Sunday.
An airport worker who was filming the fog on a cellphone recorded the sounds of the airplane taking off and crashing, Sheriff Judd mentioned. The fog was so thick that the airplane couldn’t be seen within the video, he mentioned.
Additionally killed on Sunday have been two of Mr. Shannon’s daughters, Olivia Shannon, 24, and Victoria Shannon Worthington, 26, in addition to Ms. Worthington’s husband, Peter Worthington, 27. A household pal, Krista Clayton, 32, was additionally on board, the authorities mentioned. The group had deliberate to eat lunch in Key West.
“It’s a tragedy of monumental proportions when it occurs on Christmas Eve,” mentioned Sheriff Judd, who mentioned he had been buddies with Mr. Shannon for years.
Mr. Shannon had been planning to take the journey from Lakeland, Fla., the place he lived, to the Florida Keys together with his daughters for the vacations, mentioned John Liguori, a pal. Over espresso a number of days in the past, Mr. Shannon instructed him he would depart on Christmas Eve or Christmas, relying on the climate.
“Greater than the flight, he was trying ahead to spending time together with his two ladies and the husband of his daughter,” Mr. Liguori, a lawyer in Lakeland, mentioned in a telephone interview.
Ms. Worthington and her husband arrived on Friday from Baltimore, the place they lived. She taught fourth-grade English at a public faculty in Baltimore, and Mr. Worthington attended legislation faculty. They have been married in June, and her father’s Fb profile picture exhibits him together with his daughters at her marriage ceremony.
Ms. Shannon attended Southeastern College, a personal Christian school in Lakeland. Ms. Clayton, a center faculty trainer, had a husband and two youngsters — a Three-year-old woman and an 18-month-old.
Mr. Liguori mentioned that Mr. Shannon, a longtime private harm lawyer, modified his way of life after he separated from the daughters’ mom once they have been younger. He gave up golf and devoted himself to them, he mentioned. Mr. Shannon had one other daughter from a earlier marriage, Mr. Liguori mentioned.
Mr. Shannon was nonetheless training legislation, and had additionally embraced two different passions: politics and planes. He ran for Florida state consultant in 2014 as a Republican and misplaced in a main election by fewer than 175 votes. In 2010 he obtained his pilot’s license and flew often, together with on journeys to Alabama to go to a daughter in school, Mr. Liguori mentioned.
He mentioned that Mr. Shannon, a former Marine, took each his authorized observe and flying severely. “He was very targeted when he flew,” he mentioned.
On Sunday morning, the Cessna 340 briefly lifted off the runway however rapidly plunged to the bottom, the authorities mentioned. A sheriff’s deputy who responded to a 911 name discovered the wreckage in flames in a grass subject.
The reason for the crash is beneath investigation. However Sheriff Judd mentioned it appeared that fog might have been an element within the accident. About 45 minutes earlier than the airplane took off, the Nationwide Climate Service in Tampa reported low visibility at regional airports and forecast worsening fog after dawn. Visibility on the Bartow airport was zero.15 miles at 7:15 a.m., the Climate Service mentioned.
“That’s being fairly beneficiant,” Cindy Barrow, the chief director on the Bartow airport, mentioned in an interview. “What I used to be understanding was that visibility was just about zero.”
Ms. Barrow mentioned that the management tower was closed for Christmas Eve however that pilots like Mr. Shannon can determine to take off on their very own. She famous that pilots who fly in these situations should be skilled as a result of they’ve to make use of a airplane’s devices, versus trying outdoors, to find out velocity, altitude and path.
Sheriff Judd mentioned a pilot with the Polk County Sheriff’s Workplace who was on the airport on the time of the crash instructed him that situations have been unsafe for small plane. “The situations weren’t conducive for taking off this morning,” the sheriff mentioned.