Percy Priest Lake plane crash: Both engines, more human remains recovered

NTSB: Full investigation could take up to 2 years
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Posted at 5:36 PM, May 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-01 14:19:20-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Recovery efforts continue after a deadly plane crash on Percy Priest Lake this weekend.

On Monday, a barge and crane were put in the water to load up some of the wreckage. Local authorities say a number of items have surfaced, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has taken over the investigation.

Rutherford County officials said crews were able to locate both of the engines and a significant portion of the jet’s fuselage. Additionally, they said more human remains were recovered, and the Rutherford County Medical Examiner’s Office verified that there are seven victims, four males and three females.

Investigators are working with the victims’ families to identify those human remains.


Crews also said the debris field expanded due to several possible factors, including but not limited to, weather and boat traffic. The recovery effort is likely to continue on Tuesday.

The NTSB said it should release its initial report in the next two weeks. However, the full crash investigation could take up to two years.

Although some of the Cessna Citation 501 is still submerged in Percy Priest Lake, former FAA inspector Larry Williams says investigators can get their hands on information about its final flight.

Williams says, in addition to specifics about the jet and man flying the plane, investigators are digging into fuel and maintenance logs, as well as the weather Saturday morning shortly before 11.

“As soon as that investigation starts, they look at the background of the airplane, the pilot,” he said. “The weather was 1300 overcast. So, he was in the clouds at 1300 feet and that's about the time he started to turn according to the radar track.”

Williams was an FAA inspector for nearly 34 years. The type of plane that went down is also one he is licensed to fly.

Although he's not sure what happened to send seven passengers into the water, he's pretty certain the plane is in pieces, which is why this investigation could take a year or longer.

“Unless they land on the water like Sully did, which was a miracle, it tears the airplane up,” he said.

The seven people killed were all leaders at Remnant Fellowship Church in Brentwood, including founder Gwen Shamblin Lara, who is also behind The Weigh Down Workshop. Rutherford County officials said all indications were that William J. Lara, Gwen Lara, Jennifer Martin, David Martin, Jessica Walters, Jonathan Walters, and Brandon Hannah were on board the flight that originally left Smyrna airport just before 11 a.m. heading to Palm Beach International.

plane crash members
Families impacted by plane crash. Elizabeth Hannah was not on board.

People that knew Gwen Shamblin Lara are struggling with the news of her death.

"I loved her enough to say you're wrong about my Lord," said Dwayna Litz.

Dwayna Litz explained in her interview with NewsChannel5's Hannah McDonald why she left Shamblin Lara's Bible-based weight loss program in 1999.

"I'm doing this not because I have anything against her, because the Bible says our warfare is not against flesh and blood. Her doctrines were not of God. I don't think she thought she was in darkness, but according to the Bible she was," Litz said.

Litz believes many of the followers of Shamblin Lara's religious movement have a complicated relationship with it.

"I know a lot of people want to lose weight, but it becomes an idol if you think you can't go on without the Remnant Fellowship, or you can't lose weight without her, or you can't be happy without the Remnant Fellowship, than this is in it of itself an idol," Litz said.

According to the church website, both Remnant Fellowship Church and Weigh Down Ministries will continue under the leadership of Shamblin Lara's two children, Michael Shamblin and Elizabeth Shamblin Hannah, who also lost her husband in the crash.

The Lamar Boat ramp and waterway reopened Tuesday. The Fate Sanders Recreation Area will remain closed until further notice.

Previous stories:

Plane crashes into Percy Priest Lake; Christian diet guru Gwen Shamblin Lara, 6 others on board, church says

Recording reveals possible cockpit alarm just before jet crashed into Percy Priest Lake

Controversy surrounded Brentwood church, founder for years; Gwen Shamblin Lara among those presumed dead

Pilot breaks down tape of crew talking to air traffic control before crashing into Percy Priest Lake