On Christmas Eve, a twin-engine Cessna 340 took off from Polk County Airport with the stated intention of flying to Key West for a quick lunch before returning later in the afternoon. Inside of the plane were the 70-year-old Shannon, the 24-year-old Shannon, the 26-year-old Worthington, the 27-year-old Worthington, Jr., and the 32-year-old Clayton.
According to the official report, the plane exited the hangar at the airport at close to 6:30 in the morning. At 7:15, the plane attempted to take off from the runway. Pictures taken by airport staff in the area at this time show that the entire runway of the airport was shrouded in a thick fog. A helicopter pilot who was inside of one of the airports hangars recalled hearing the Cessna 340’s engine as it began to head down the runway. The helicopter pilot told authorities that, due to the extreme density of the fog, they could not even see the plane even though it sounded very close.
Despite the fog, Shannon, a Lakeland attorney and the pilot of the plane carrying his two daughters, his son-in-law, and a family friend, decided to try and take off anyway. The helicopter pilot stated that only a few seconds after he initially heard the aircraft take off he noticed that the sound quality of the plane’s engine changed. Moments later, at 7:20, the plane crashed at the airports northern end.
Grady Judd, the Polk County Sheriff, was on hand to discuss the incident with reporters. He told them that every individual aboard the plane was killed as a result of the crash. Although the exact state of the aircraft was not described in the initial report, statements made by Judd indicated that the degree of damage suffered to the small craft indicated that all those aboard likely died instantaneously upon impact.
An investigation into the incident is underway as the Polk County Sheriff’s Office works with the National Transportation Safety Board as well as the Federal Aviation Administration to discover just what caused the crash in the first place.
James O. Cunningham
Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.
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