Home Christian News Final Episodes in Gwen Shamblin Lara Docuseries Sound a Warning for Everyone

Final Episodes in Gwen Shamblin Lara Docuseries Sound a Warning for Everyone

Part of the episode focuses on Joe Lara’s experience as a pilot and whether or not inexperience might have contributed to the crash. Earlier in his life, Lara was certified as a private pilot and was licensed to fly in good weather, but he had not flown for over seven years when he met Gwen Shamblin and took up the hobby again. 

According to Lara’s former girlfriend, Natasha Pavlovich, with whom he shared custody of a daughter, after taking up flying again, Lara got multiple new flight ratings, as well as a helicopter license, all within about a year. Pavlovich, who also has experience as a pilot, was not comfortable allowing their daughter to fly with Lara, although he disregarded her wishes. Aviation consultant Robert Fowler told HBO Max that Lara did not have many hours in the plane he was flying, a Cessna 501, when he died because he had only been recently certified to fly it.

Fowler said that it is possible Lara’s inexperience could have led to the crash, which occurred on a day with poor visibility. The Cessna descended at a speed of 30,000 feet per minute (a normal descent occurs at 500 feet per minute) and crashed into eight feet of water, so the passengers would have died immediately on impact. 

However, Fowler also said it is “not really clear” that the plane crashed due to a pilot error. There could have been a problem with the flight controls. What really happened will not be clear until the National Transportation Safety Board comes out with its final report, said Fowler, adding “and it’s unfair to guess.”

The Orphans of the Crash

One of the many troubling parts of the docuseries focuses on Remnant Fellowship’s treatment of the children of those who died in the accident. Pavlovich’s daughter was not with her at the time of the plane crash, but thankfully was not on the plane. Pavlovich says she only got her daughter back from Remnant Fellowship members with the aid of a police officer. 

After encountering resistance from Joe Lara’s mother and Gwen Shamblin Lara’s assistant, Abby McDonald, the officer returned Pavlovich’s daughter to her after threatening to arrest McDonald for kidnapping if she concealed the girl’s whereabouts. 

The officer retrieved Pavlovich’s daughter from a mansion, where the girl was staying with about 15 other kids, all of whom were orphans of the victims of the plane crash. The officer said the situation seemed strange and that there were kids taking care of other kids.

According to Nancy Staggs, a childhood friend of Gwen’s daughter Elizabeth, the church’s lawyers encourage parents, when making their wills, to leave their children to Remnant Fellowship, not to extended family members. The children of Jonathan and Jessica Walters are now in the guardianship of another Remnant family, not their grandparents, as the Walters’ will said church leadership should decide where their kids should go in the event of their death. 

Phil Williams, an investigative journalist with NewsChannel 5 Nashville, observed that one of the interesting facts about Gwen Shamblin Lara’s will was that she left nothing to Remnant Fellowship Church. Her children, Michael Shamblin and Elizabeth Hannah, are the sole beneficiaries of her extensive wealth.

More Testimonies of Trauma

Some of the former Remnant Fellowship members who had not appeared in the first three episodes said they had severe anxiety about coming forward, but chose to do so in order to protect other people. 

“Sitting in this chair [for the docuseries] was probably one of the most difficult things I have ever done,” said Gina Hartley, who was a Remnant Fellowship member from 2007 to 2012 and 2016 to 2020. “I feared it. I got physically sick over it.” Hartley explained she was worried about what people who knew her were going to think about her when they discovered she had been part of Remnant. “Because when you think of somebody involved with a cult, you think of a crazy person,” she said.

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Jessica is a content editor for ChurchLeaders.com and the producer of The Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast. She has always had a passion for the written word and has been writing professionally for the past five years. When Jessica isn't writing, she enjoys West Coast Swing dancing, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.