NTSB releases preliminary report on plane crash that killed Gwen Shamblin, Joe Lara and others

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The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary investigation report Tuesday afternoon about the deadly plane crash in Rutherford County last month that killed seven church leaders onboard.

William J. Lara, Gwen S. Lara, Jennifer J. Martin, David L. Martin, Jessica Walters, Jonathan Walters and Brandon Hannah, all of Brentwood, were aboard the 1982 Cessna 501 when it went down May 29 crashing into Percy Priest Lake.

All seven were leaders at Remnant Fellowship Church in Brentwood.

According to the three-page NTSB report, the plane took off at 10:55 a.m. from the Smyrna Airport and made a climbing right turn to the east.

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Investigators found a departure controller "instructed the pilot to turn right to a heading 130" but the pilot did not acknowledge the request. Shortly after the controller asked the pilot again if he copied the heading instructions, and he responded "130 Bravo Kilo."

Two minutes later, the report shows, the controller told the pilot to climb and maintain 15,000 feet, but the pilot did not respond.

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"The controller made multiple attempts to reestablish communication with the airplane, however, there were no further communications," the report reads.

Shortly after, a witness fishing on the lake about 150 feet west of the Fate Sanders Recreation Area saw the plane crash "straight down" into a shallow portion of the lake.

The witness told investigators he did not see fire or an explosion.

The NTSB report released Friday does not name the pilot, but says he held commercial pilot certificates for airplanes and helicopters that match the ones held by William Lara. His most recent FAA medical certificate was issued on Nov. 12, 2019, with the limitation he must wear corrective lenses while flying.

Investigators determined a review of the pilot's logbook revealed he had accumulated about 1,680 total flight hours of which about 83 were in the accident airplane.

About two-thirds of the airplane was recovered from the lake, which include both engines, the main cabin door, portions of the main cabin windows, the left nose baggage door, all three landing gear, most of the tail section and sections of both wings including portions of the flaps and ailerons. Several fractured pieces of seat frames and pieces were also recovered.

According to the findings there was no evidence of an in-flight fire observed on any of the recovered sections of the airframe or engine.

The airplane wreckage, the report continues, is being further examined by NTSB investigators.

The airplane was not equipped, nor required to be equipped with a flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder, investigators found.

A recording of the communication between the control tower and the pilot, captured on LiveATC.com, revealed an alarm going off in the cockpit of the plane seconds before it crashed, suggesting a mechanical failure in the aircraft, which was built in 1982.

The group was traveling to a Women Fighting For America event in Stuart, Florida, according to the organization's founder. Authorities said the plane was headed from Smyrna to Palm Beach International Airport in Florida.

Brandon Hannah, another church leader with a pilot license, was on the flight, but he didn't have a certification for the Cessna 500 series, according to the FAA database.

Natalie Neysa Alund is based in Nashville at The Tennessean and covers breaking news across the South for the USA TODAY Network. Reach her at nalund@tennessean.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Gwen Shamblin plane crash preliminary NTSB report released