Home Christian News Report Reveals Cause of Crash That Killed Joe and Gwen Shamblin Lara

Report Reveals Cause of Crash That Killed Joe and Gwen Shamblin Lara

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Joe and Gwen Shamblin Lara. Screenshot from YouTube / @LifewithGwenandJoe

Joe Lara, the husband of Remnant Fellowship Church founder and diet guru Gwen Shamblin Lara, crashed the Cessna 501 he was flying on May 29, 2021, because of “spatial disorientation,” according to a report released Wednesday from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The crash was fatal, killing the Laras and the five other people on board.

“Flight track data revealed that after takeoff, the airplane entered the clouds and made a series of heading changes, along with several climbs and descents, before it entered a steep, descending left turn,” says the NTSB’s report. The investigation of the crash did not find that any mechanical malfunction or medical condition caused the accident. 

The report says it seems likely that Lara’s disorientation led him to believe the plane was “pitching up although it was in a continuous descent.” The report continues: 

This occurred because the pilot was experiencing spatial disorientation and he likely did not effectively use his instrumentation during takeoff and climb. As a result of the pilot experiencing spatial disorientation, he likely experienced a high workload managing the flight profile, which would have had a further adverse effect on his performance. As such, the airplane entered a high acceleration, unusual attitude, descending left turn from which the pilot was not able to recover.

Joe and Gwen Shamblin Lara, 5 Others Die in Crash

On May 29, 2021, at about 10:55 a.m. local time, a Cessna 501 crashed into a lake in Smyrna, Tennessee. On board were “Tarzan” actor Joe Lara (the plane’s pilot), Gwen Shamblin Lara, Remnant Fellowship church leaders David Martin and his wife Jennifer, Jonathan Walters and his wife Jessica, and Gwen Shamblin Lara’s son-in-law, Brandon Hannah. The plane, which was headed for West Palm Beach, Florida, crashed shortly after takeoff.

Gwen Shamblin Lara became well-known in the 1990s due to her Weigh Down Workshop, which was offered in many churches, and her book, “The Weigh Down Diet.” She founded Remnant Fellowship in 1999 with Weigh Down participants as core members and was the primary leader in the church.

An HBO Max docuseries released in September 2021 makes the case that Shamblin Lara was essentially a cult leader and that Remnant Fellowship was spiritually abusive. Former members recount brainwashing, child abuse, manipulation, eating disorders, depression, and suicidal ideation.

In a statement, Remnant Fellowship said it “categorically denies the absurd, defamatory statements and accusations made in this documentary – yet another Hollywood attack on religion.” In a separate statement, Shamblin Lara’s daughter, Elizabeth Shamblin Hannah, also denied the conclusions of the documentary, saying, “In every action, deed, and word, my mother lived for God alone – no matter what false accusations came her way.”

In April 2022, HBO Max released two follow-up episodes to the docuseries. One explored whether or not inexperience contributed to the plane 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.