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The pilot, 70-year-old John Shannon, and his four passengers — including two daughters, a son-in-law and a family friend — were killed immediately, according to officials.
“There was no chance of survival,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said, according to WTSP-TV. “When you look at the crash, the only thing that you say is, ‘Nobody suffered.’”
Shannon, a lawyer from Lakeland, Florida, had planned to fly the Cessna 340 plane to Key West, typically about a 45-minute journey. The group had intended to have lunch in Key West on Christmas Eve before flying back later in the day, The New York Times reported.
The crash victims were identified as Olivia Shannon, a 24-year-old Southeastern University student; Victoria Shannon Worthington, a 26-year-old teacher who lived in Baltimore; Peter Worthington Jr., a 27-year-old University of Maryland law student; and Krista Clayton, a 32-year-old teacher from Lakeland.
The Worthingtons, who were married in June, had arrived in Florida from Maryland on Friday for the Christmas holiday, according to the Times.
The cause of the crash remains unknown, but officials said the plane was heading into very dense and heavy fog when it took off. Visibility at the time had been “pretty much zero,” an airport official said, according to the Times.
“No one should have attempted to take off in a small plane in that weather,” said Judd, who the Times reported was a longtime friend of the pilot.
“Our heart breaks,” the sheriff said, per WTSP-TV. “You know, certainly, we wish we could rewind this and if we could, I would wrestle him to the floor to keep him from getting into this airplane this morning.”