Seven people are presumed to have died in Saturday’s crash of a small jet into a Tennessee lake, including Remnant Fellowship Church founder and Christian diet guru Gwen Shamblin Lara, officials said.
The Cessna 501 was carrying seven people when it crashed late Saturday morning into Percy Priest Lake in Smyrna, a community near Nashville, shortly after taking off from the Smyrna airport, officials have said.
On board were Lara; her husband, William J. Lara; her son-in-law, Brandon Hannah; and married couples Jennifer and David Martin, and Jessica and Jonathan Walters, a spokesperson for the Rutherford County government said in a news release.
All seven aboard are presumed to have died, officials have said. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash’s cause.
In a statement sent to CNN, Remnant Fellowship Church paid tribute to those on board the plane.
“The seven Remnant Fellowship leaders lost May 29, 2021 were some of the finest and most loving people that you would ever come across. During this horrible 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 TV series “Tarzan: The Epic Adventures,” which ran from 1996 to 1997.
A registered dietician, 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 dietician.
“Gwen Shamblin Lara was one of the world’s most kind, gentle, and selfless mother and wife, and a loyal, caring, supportive best friend to all. She lived every day laying down 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 greatly missed. “
The Walterses and the Martins joined the church in the late 1990s, according to the church’s website. Hannah helped oversee the church’s youth group, according to the site.
The church said all were Remnant Fellowship leaders “who were very involved in the community and loved by many.”
CNN has made efforts to contact relatives of those who died in the crash for comment.
The plane was bound for Florida’s Palm Beach International Airport when it crashed, Rutherford County spokesperson Ashley McDonald said.
The aircraft was registered to JL & GL Productions LP, located in Bradwell, Tennessee, according to a Federal Aviation Administration registry. JL & GL Productions LP was owned by Gwen Shamblin Lara, according to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website.
Dive teams have recovered several components of the plane and human remains from the lake, officials said Sunday.
The debris field is about a half-mile wide, Rutherford County Fire Rescue Capt. John Ingle said.
Recovery teams plan to work at the site until dark Sunday, and again on Monday.