NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A small jet that crashed into Percy Priest Lake Saturday morning, killing seven leaders of a Brentwood church, began dropping dramatically just 90 seconds into its flight, air traffic control records show.
ATC radio recordings also reveal that, when the pilot responded to controllers directing him to turn, there is the sound of a possible alarm in the cockpit. Some pilots told NewsChannel 5 that it sounded unusual, while others suggested such sounds would be expected during takeoff.
Those are the type of issues that investigators will be reviewing in the days ahead.
FAA altitude data shows the Cessna C501, a small business jet, appears to have briefly regained altitude before plummeting into the lake from 2,900 feet in just seconds in a high-impact crash.
All seven people on board -- Remnant Fellowship founder Gwen Shamblin Lara, her husband Joe Lara and five other church leaders -- are presumed dead, authorities said.
Multiple agencies continued operations through the night to recover wreckage, according to a Sunday morning update from Rutherford County officials.
Dive teams from Rutherford County Fire Rescue, Metro Nashville Office of Emergency Management, Metro Nashville Police Department, and Wilson County Emergency Management Agency will be conducting dive operations in recovery efforts throughout the day.
The lead investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is expected to be on site midday to join local officials and Federal Aviation Administration representatives already on site, the announcement said.
UPDATE: Plane carrying Remnant Fellowship founder Gwen Shamblin Lara, other church leaders may have been heading to a MAGA rally w/ Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, one speaker’s FB post suggests. pic.twitter.com/yc1gALk3K7— Phil Williams (@NC5PhilWilliams) May 30, 2021
According to ATC records, the jet with the tail number N66BK took off to the northwest from the Smyrna-Rutherford County Airport at 10:53 a.m. Saturday.
The aircraft climbed to 2,900 feet as it began turning to the northeast.
An air traffic controller gave the pilot directions to turn to the southeast.
When the pilot acknowledged the directions, there is the sound of some sort of alarm in the cockpit.
Ninety seconds into the flight, the jet drops to 2,600 feet, then 2,500 feet, before plummeting to 1,900 feet in just six seconds.
Tracking records show the pilot apparently pulled the plane back up to 2,900 feet just nine seconds later, then the aircraft went into a steep dive into Percy Priest Lake.
When the aircraft dropped off radar, the air traffic controller began repeatedly calling out to the pilot, asking: "How do you hear?"
There was no response.
The aircraft had been registered to JL&GL Productions LP on March 2nd, 2020, Federal Aviation Administration records show. That is a partnership belonging to Joe Lara and Gwen Shamblin Lara.
Joe Lara was certified as a commercial pilot just nine days later, FAA records reveal.
In addition to recovering victims, investigators will be attempting to recover plane debris that may offer clues about what caused the crash.
“With dive teams in the water, we are strongly urging civilian boaters to stay away from the public safety boats,” said Rutherford County incident commander John Ingle. “This is for their safety and the safety of our personnel in the water.”
Ingle also noted that the Lamar Hill boat ramp and Fate Sanders Recreation area are closed until further notice.
“Recovery efforts are ongoing on the lake from the Weakley Lane bridge to the Lamar Hill Boat Ramp,” said Ingle. “We are asking all civilian boaters to stay clear of those areas.”