Seven people are believed to have died in a small jet plane crash in a lake in Tennessee on Saturday, including the founder of the Remnant Fellowship Church and Christian food guru Gwen Shamblin Lara, officials said.
The Cessna 501 was carrying seven people when it crashed into Percy Priest Lake in Smyrna, a community near Nashville, shortly after taking off from Smyrna Airport, officials said.
On board was Lara; her husband, William J. Lara; his son-in-law, Brandon Hannah; and married couples Jennifer and David Martin, and Jessica and Jonathan Walters, a Rutherford County government spokesperson said in a press release.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the accident.
In a statement sent to CNN, Remnant Fellowship Church paid tribute to those on board the plane.
“The seven Remnant Fellowship leaders lost on May 29, 2021 were some of the most beautiful and loving people you have ever met. During this horrific tragedy, our church would greatly appreciate prayers, ”the church said.
Gwen Shamblin Lara was the founder and spiritual leader of Remnant Fellowship Church in Brentwood, south of Nashville. Her husband, who went by Joe Lara, was an actor best known for playing the lead role in the “Tarzan: The Epic Adventures” television series, which ran from 1996 to 1997.
A registered dietitian, Gwen Shamblin Lara created the Weigh Down Diet, which encouraged dieters to strengthen their faith in God to lose weight. In 1998, Lara told CNN’s Larry King that she believed God had led her to become a dietitian.
“Gwen Shamblin Lara was one of the nicest, sweetest and most selfless mothers and women in the world, and a loyal, caring and supportive best friend of all. She lived each day giving her own life to ensure that others could find a relationship with God, ”Remnant Fellowship Church said in its statement. “Her wonderful and supportive husband, Joe Lara, will also be dearly missed. “
Elizabeth Hannah, daughter of Gwen Shamblin Lara and wife of Brandon Hannah, remembered her mother and husband in a statement released by the county.
“The seven Remnant community leaders lost yesterday, including my husband and mother, were some of the most beautiful, righteous and loving people I have ever known,” said Elizabeth Hannah. “I want the whole world to know that my mother, Gwen Shamblin Lara, was the kindest, sweetest, most selfless mother and best friend to me and my brother. His actions and words have changed thousands of lives for the better – and his message “Love GOD with ALL your heart” – will live on forever and ever – and will continue to change lives for all eternity. My beloved husband, Brandon Hannah, first took on this message of love for God – and he was truly one of the most selfless and loving husbands and fathers on the planet.
Michael Shamblin, son of Gwen Shamblin Lara, thanked all first responders and law enforcement who worked at the crash site.
“My family is just asking for prayers at this time and we hope everyone who has been affected, especially the children of other passengers, know that they are dearly loved and we hope to take special care of their needs in the years to come. “, did he declare. in the statement.
The Walters and Martins joined the church in the late 1990s, according to the church’s website. Hannah helped supervise the church’s youth group, according to the site.
The church said all were leaders of the Remnant Fellowship “who were very involved in the community and loved by many”.
CNN is trying to contact relatives of those who died in the crash for comment.
The plane was bound for Palm Beach International Airport in Florida when it crashed, Rutherford County spokesperson Ashley McDonald said.
The aircraft was registered with JL & GL Productions LP, located in Bradwell, Tennessee, according to a Federal Aviation Administration register. JL & GL Productions LP was owned by Gwen Shamblin Lara, according to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website.
Dive crews recovered several aircraft components and human remains from the lake, officials said on Sunday.
The debris field is about half a mile wide, said Rutherford County Rescue Captain John Ingle.
Operations at the crash site were halted Sunday evening and recovery and investigation efforts will resume Monday morning, a county government press release said on Sunday evening.
“On behalf of all agencies that responded to or contributed to this incident in any way, we extend our sincere condolences to the families and friends affected by this tragedy,” said Joshua Sanders, Rutherford County Fire Captain in the press release. “We are committed to working with our federal partners to do all we can to end those affected by this incident.”