Seven Killed In Tennessee Citation Crash


Seven people, including Christian diet personality Gwen Lara and her actor husband Joe Lara, were killed when their Citation 501 crashed into a lake east of Nashville Saturday morning. Authorities said today that all on board were presumed dead and that human remains had been found.

The jet had taken off from Smyrna Airport en route to Palm Beach, Florida. Shortly after takeoff, it crashed in Percy Priest Lake, a large man-made lake just east of the Nashville suburbs and near Interstate 40. Although a line of thunderstorms had swept through the area early Saturday, it’s not known if weather was a factor. Smyrna-Rutherford County Airport is south and west of the lake and east of Nashville.

The victims were identified in a press release issued Saturday night by Rutherford County as William J. Lara, Gwen S. Lara, Jennifer J. Martin, David L. Martin, Jessica Walters, Jonathan Walters and Brandon Hannah. Gwen Lara founded the Remnant Fellowship Church and Weigh Down Ministries. The latter was devoted to helping people troubled by eating disorders.  

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  1. There are a half dozen people right now over at the Luscombe Facebook site claiming a woman was spared death in an 8A landing approach crash by her faith in some invisible almighty rather than training, skill, aircraft design/construction or pure chance. If evangelicals want to give their divinity credit for saving lives, then blame for taking them also accrues. What did THESE poor seemingly devout tax-exempt souls do to piss Him/Her\It off? Shall we instead trust the NTSB to scientifically and objectively identify a probable cause we can learn from to avoid a similar “fate”?

    • I know first hand the NTSB gets accident causes wrong. They are after all ‘human’ and rarely get all the information pertaining to the crash, even from other government agencies like the FAA.
      I will always trust a God, be it Him / Her/ It / or non gender identifying, over government.

    • It isn’t that God protects us from tragedy or manifests it. This is obvious through the endless trials and tribulations humans of all beliefs have endured throughout the ages.

      We are all exposed to the consequences of our own free will, this is inherent in how God designed us to be. What is promised isn’t a pain-free life on earth, but one in heaven after we die. A relationship with God also means learning to find joy and peace even in the midst of the pain we all experience here on earth.

      Prayers for the families of this tragedy. Will look forward to the report to hopefully help prevent more of its kind.

      • Thank you for your concise explanation on how our Lord gave us free will to either choose to love and follow Him, or not. It’s a binary decision. Also, actions have consequences. In life and in the air. Finally, sometimes He does decide to miraculously save someone. Either from illness, a fiery crash, a divorce, or countless other tragedies. It’s His prerogative.

    • The only thing worse than evangelicals attempting to define Christianity, is an atheist attempting to define Christianity.

      Actually, in the grand scheme of things, that’s probably backwards. However, in this day and age I am happy to be “canceled” both by evangelicals and atheist.

    • I appreciated the symmetry of the OP’s non gender specific deity bit but now I wish to also endorse/like|dignify\highlight your response too. While noting the concern about where this could all lead.

  2. Very tragic accident. From the radar track it looks like a loss of control and nearly vertical dive to impact. The last radar hit measuring 158 kts is simply due to it reading groundspeed and not airspeed. An aircraft going nearly straight down can have incredible airspeed with little groundspeed. The half mile debris field suggests an inflight breakup either caused by the dive, causing the dive, or a combination of both. Finding the position of the elevator trim tabs will go a long way in explaining this accident.

  3. Based on what I read in other articles, there was nobody on board who was legally qualified to pilot that plane. If that proves to be the case, there will presumably be no insurance money for the families of those who died. Sounds like a field day for the lawyers.

    • Looking at the list of people on board a good guess is Brandon Hannah was the pilot. Looking up that name in the FAA pilot database shows him as a Private pilot with multi-engine and instrument rating. The flight track seems to lean towards loss of control in IMC, yet he had a an instrument rating so….Over-loaded solo pilot in a tough IMC getting distracted and barely proficient in IFR?

      Whether or not God had a hand in this he|she|it won’t be telling so that leaves it with the NTSB. My hope this is a teachable moment for others going forward.

      • “We don’t need no stinkin’ qualifications, God will take care of us.” Sadly, I’ve seen this attitude in several (but certainly not all) church sponsored activities, outside of aviation as well. “We put our faith in God, and he will protect us and give us the abilities we need.” And if there’s a fatal accident as a result – “praise the Lord, they’re in heaven now.” Confirmation bias — events are interpreted based on preconceived beliefs, not necessarily objective conclusions based on evidence.

      • I think the pilot was William Joseph Lara (identified in the article as Joe Lara.) According to the FAA database, his last medical was in 2017, so it was two years expired. That probably means he had a medical issue that precluded him from renewing it. Who knows whether or not that was a factor in the crash. But someone who has the poor judgment to flout the rules in one area may well have been flouting the rules in other areas.

    • The second pilot on board doesn’t appear to have had any jet experience or ratings. The likely pilot (Lara)’s medical expired in 2019 so would not have been extended by the Covid SFAR, which, in any case, ended in January.

      It is certainly possible that if the plane sat around for a year and didn’t fly, and perhaps wasn’t maintained/inspected prior to the flight, there could have been a mechanical issue. It’s also possible that the pilot was not current (access to the aircraft flight history is restricted, and I can’t see whether it flew over the past year) and became disoriented when the plane flew into the clouds or didn’t use the autopilot properly. But that’s complete speculation. But someone who is willing to fly without a current medical certificate might also be willing to fly without a current instrument proficiency check.

      It looks like the plane was only purchased by the current owners in March of 2020.