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Leaders of Remnant Fellowship Church Among the Presumed Dead
Seven individuals, all leaders at Remnant Fellowship Church in Brentwood, were tragically involved in a plane crash on Percy Priest Lake in Smyrna on Saturday. The group was en route to a Women Fighting For America event in Stuart, Florida, according to the founder of the organization. The aircraft, a Cessna 500 series plane, was traveling from Smyrna to Palm Beach International Airport in Florida.
Among those on board the ill-fated plane were William J. Lara, Gwen Shamblin Lara, Jennifer J. Martin, David L. Martin, Jessica Walters, Jonathan Walters, and Brandon Hannah. Gwen Lara, the founder of the church, was a Christian dietician who created a faith-based weight-loss Bible study program called “Weigh Down Workshop.”
Recovery Efforts and Ongoing Investigation
As of Tuesday morning, crews were still at the crash site, although operations were nearing completion, as stated by Ashley McDonald, spokesperson for Rutherford County. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be responsible for conducting the ongoing investigation.
Eric Weiss, spokesperson for the NTSB, estimated that it would likely take two weeks before a preliminary investigation report is released. The comprehensive investigation, including determining the probable cause of the crash, may take anywhere from one to two years.
Weiss emphasized the challenges posed by water recoveries, noting that recovery efforts become more complicated in these circumstances. However, he reassured the public that the NTSB and its partners are well-equipped to navigate these difficulties in order to uncover what transpired and why, ultimately working towards preventing future accidents.
Recovery of Bodies, Engine, and Fuselage
By Monday, crews had successfully retrieved both engines and a significant portion of the aircraft’s fuselage, as reported by Rutherford County Fire Rescue. A crane and barge were utilized to lift items from the lake and transport them. Due to several factors, such as weather and boat traffic, the initial debris field had expanded.
Additionally, further human remains were recovered on Monday. The Rutherford County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed that the plane carried four men and three women. However, it remains unclear who was piloting the aircraft at the time of the crash.
The medical examiner is currently collaborating with the Middle Tennessee Regional Forensic Center and the families of the victims to biologically identify the human remains.
Impact on Local Recreation Areas and Reopening Plans
The Lamar Hill Boat Ramp is expected to reopen on Tuesday, while Fate Sanders Recreation Area will remain closed until further notice.
“The Way Down” Docuseries Explores Gwen Shamblin Plane Crash
HBO Max’s docuseries, “The Way Down: God, Greed, and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin,” delves into the life of the controversial religious leader, Gwen Shamblin. The first four episodes focus on her life, while the final two episodes center on her tragic death and the aftermath.
Director Marina Zenovich, who had been working on the documentary about Shamblin and Remnant, faced a significant shift in plans after the accident. Instead of releasing all episodes at once, Zenovich and HBO elected to introduce additional episodes and split them accordingly.
The second part of “The Way Down” airs on Thursday, April 28, and scrutinizes the investigation into the plane crash. It includes interviews with individuals who departed Remnant following Shamblin’s passing. Notably, Chrissy Teigen serves as an executive producer for this project.
Event Organizer Mourns the Tragic Loss
The group was en route to the “We The People Patriots’ Day Rally” in Florida. Christie Hutcherson, the founder of Women Fighting for America, confirmed their intended destination and expressed shock and sadness over the loss of lives.
Gwen Lara, a first-time sponsor of the rally, was affectionately remembered as a true patriot who deeply loved God and all those around her. Hutcherson described her as an incredibly generous and caring individual.
The Patriots Day Rally featured numerous speakers, including staunch supporters of former President Donald Trump. The rally’s promotion also included polarizing political operative Roger Stone.
Future of Remnant Fellowship Church
In a statement released on Sunday evening, Remnant Fellowship Church affirmed its commitment to continuing Gwen Shamblin Lara’s mission through her children, Elizabeth Shamblin Hannah and Michael Shamblin, as well as other church leaders. Gwen Shamblin Lara, a Memphis native, founded the Brentwood church in 1999 after her weight-loss Bible study program, “Weigh Down Workshop,” gained popularity among Christians. What initially started with only a handful of members has since flourished into a faith community comprising over 170 churches.
Funeral arrangements for the victims have yet to be finalized as of Tuesday morning.