What to know about the plane crash that killed Christian dietitian Gwen Shamblin Lara

What to know about the plane crash that killed Christian dietitian Gwen Shamblin Lara

June 1, 2021

SMYRNA, Tenn. — The seven people presumed dead in a Saturday plane crash on Percy Priest Lake were all leaders at Remnant Fellowship Church in Brentwood.

The group was traveling to a Women Fighting For America event in Stuart, Florida, according to the organization’s founder. Authorities said the Cessna 500 series plane that crashed was headed from Smyrna to Palm Beach International Airport in Florida.

Those identified on the plane were: William J. Lara, Gwen Shamblin Lara, Jennifer J. Martin, David L. Martin, Jessica Walters, Jonathan Walters and Brandon Hannah. 

Gwen Lara founded the church as a Christian dietitian and creator of a faith-based weight-loss Bible study program called “Weigh Down Workshop.”

Crews were still working on the scene of the crash Tuesday morning but operations were drawing to a close, Rutherford County spokesperson Ashley McDonald said. The National Transportation Safety Board will handle the ongoing investigation.

NTSB spokesperson Eric Weiss estimated it would be two weeks before a preliminary investigation report is released. The full investigation, including a probable cause of the crash, may take one to two years. 

“Water recoveries make the recovery efforts more difficult,” Weiss said. “The NTSB and its partners are used to working through these difficulties and finding out what happened and why, so we can prevent future accidents.”

Weiss said the investigation will focus on three main factors: the pilot, the people involved and environmental factors affecting the flight, including things like the weather and interactions with air traffic control.

Bodies, engine, fuselage recovered

Wreckage is pulled from the water at the scene of a plane crash on J. Percy Priest Lake in Smyrna, Tenn., Monday, May 31, 2021. Seven people are presumed dead after the small plane crashed into the lake on Saturday, while it was heading from Smyrna to Palm Beach International Airport in Florida. (Photo: Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean)

Crews had recovered both of the jets’ engines and a significant portion of the fuselage by Monday, according to Rutherford County Fire Rescue. Items were lifted from the lake and transported with the assistance of a crane and barge. The initial debris field was expanded due to several possible factors, including weather and boat traffic.

More human remains were also recovered Monday. The Rutherford County Medical Examiner’s Office verified that four men and three women were on board. It’s unclear who was flying the plane when it crashed.

Rutherford County Fire Rescue said the medical examiner is working with the Middle Tennessee Regional Forensic Center and the victims’ families to identify human remains biologically.

The Lamar Hill Boat Ramp was expected to reopen Tuesday. Fate Sanders Recreation Area will remain closed until further notice.

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