Investigators release preliminary report on plane crash that killed 7, including a Christian diet guru and ‘Tarzan’ actor
The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report into the May 29 plane crash that killed seven people, including Remnant Fellowship Church founder and Christian diet guru Gwen Shamblin Lara and her husband, “Tarzan: The Epic Adventures” actor William J. Lara.
The plane crashed into Percy Priest Lake in Smyrna, Tennessee, after taking off from the airport bound for Florida’s Palm Beach International Airport.
The Cessna 501 departed the Smyrna Airport at 10:53 a.m., according to the NTSB preliminary report, and the pilot was in contact with Nashville departure control.
At 10:55 a.m., an air traffic controller instructed the pilot to climb and maintain at 15,000 feet but did not get a response, the report said. There were no further communications, despite multiple attempts from the controller, the report said.
“A review of radar data revealed that after the pilot established contact with departure control the airplane made a series of heading changes along with several climbs and descents before it entered a steep, descending left turn,” the NTSB said.
The last radar return, at 10:55, indicated the plane was at about 700 feet and descending at about 31,000 feet per minute, the report added.
A witness who was fishing nearby told investigators he heard what he thought was a low-flying military jet before he saw the plane plunge into the lake in a “straight down” nose-first manner.
Examination of the crash site revealed the plane hit a shallow section of the lake that was about two- to eight-feet-deep, the report said. About two-thirds of the plane was recovered from the lake, including both engines, the main cabin door and portions of the main cabin windows, most of the tail section, and sections of both wings.
“Several fractured seat frames and pieces of the interior were also recovered. There was no evidence of an in-flight fire observed on any of the recovered sections of airframe or engines,” the report said.
The plane wasn’t equipped — and wasn’t required to be equipped — with a flight data recorder or a cockpit voice recorder, the report added.
The final report for the crash will be released in 12 to 24 months, NTSB said.
The pilot, who was among the seven killed, had a commercial pilot certificate and a private pilot certificate and had logged 1,680 total flight hours, 83 of those in the plane involved in the crash.