‘Spatial disorientation’ caused Gwen Shamblin Lara plane crash: NTSB
A 2021 plane crash that killed seven leaders of Remnant Fellowship, a Nashville, Tennessee-area megachurch, was due to pilot error, a report from the National Transportation Safety Board found.
Nearly two years after the plane went down in Middle Tennessee, the agency determined the pilot, Joe Lara, became disoriented while maneuvering shortly after taking off in Smyrna before crashing in Percy Priest Lake.
Smyrna, a town in Rutherford County, is about 23 miles southeast of downtown Nashville. Remnant Fellowship is located in the Music City southern suburb of Brentwood.
Lara and his wife, Gwen Shamblin Lara, the founder of Remnant Fellowship and a popular Christian diet program, died in the May 29, 2021 crash.
Five other Remnant leaders also died: Jennifer J. Martin, David L. Martin, Jessica Walters, Jonathan Walters and Brandon Hannah, all of Brentwood.
The report, released Wednesday, said when the Cessna 501 Citation entered clouds while performing a climbing right turn, it began to descend. It then entered a climbing right turn followed by a left turn.
A simulation test determined Joe Lara perceived that the aircraft was nose-up rather than nose down because of acceleration.
“Throughout the whole of the flight, it was also possible that the roll angle could have felt much less extreme than it actually was,” the NTSB report said.
The plane entered into a steep descending left turn, consistent with spatial disorientation.
As a result, the pilot experienced spatial disorientation, the inability of a person to determine his true body position, motion, and altitude relative to the earth or his surroundings.
“He would have to use the airplane’s instrumentation to understand his position in space and make appropriate changes to the airplane’s trajectory while operating in a high workload environment,” the report said.
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The crash sequence
The plane took off around 10:53 a.m. Less than two minutes after takeoff, the plane crashed about 2.7 miles away.
While speaking with air traffic controllers, Joe Lara was asked to turn right, heading 130 degrees. The pilot did not acknowledge.
At 10:55 a.m., the controller instructed the pilot to climb to 15,000 feet. Again, he did not respond.
A witness fishing about 50 yards from the boat ramp on Lake Percy Priest said he heard what sounded like a military jet for three to four seconds before a loud boom, the report said.
A review of Joe Lara’s logbook showed a total of more than 1,680 flight hours, 83 of which were in the plane that crashed.
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