Joe Lara, Tarzan Actor, Dies in Plane Crash Alongside Wife and 5 Others

Actor Joe Lara and his wife, Christian diet program founder Gwen Shamblin Lara, are among the victims of a plane crash near Nashville on Saturday. The couple and five others were flying in a private Cessna C501, owned by Shamblin Lara's production company. Lara, 58, starred as Tarzan in the 1989 TV movie Tarzan in Manhattan and played a role in the series Tarzan: The Epic Adventures. Shamblin Lara, 66, was the founder of The Weigh Down Workshop and the Remnant Fellowship Church, based in Brentwood, Tennessee.

The plane went down Saturday in Percy Priest Lake in Smyrna, Tennessee. All seven people on the plane are presumed dead, authorities said Saturday night, reports WTVF. The other victim were Jennifer J. Martin, David L. Martin, Jessica Walters, Jonathan Walters, and Brandon Hannah. Law enforcement agencies responded to the crash at around 11 a.m. Saturday, shortly after the plane took off from Smyrna Rutherford County Airport. They later found the debris field of the plane, which was registered to JL&GL Productions LP, the company owned by the Laras.

Recovery teams are still searching the area Sunday, and human remains have been found, reports The Tennessean. "The debris field is approximately half of mile wide," Rutherford County Fire Captain and Incident Commander John Ingle explained. Local officials also asked boaters to stay away from the cash side during the investigation. "With dive teams in the water, we are strongly urging civilian boaters to stay away from the public safety boats," Inge said. "This is for their safety and the safety of our personnel in the water."

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, no one on the plane was qualified to fly it. Lara did have a pilot's license, but he had not updated his medical certificate since 2017. Hannah, a leader in the Remnant Fellowship Church, also had a pilot's license but was not certified to fly the Cessna 500 series. A recording of a conversation between the control tower and the pilot, published on LiveATC.com, revealed an alarm going off in the cockpit. This suggests there may have been a mechanical failure in the 39-year-old plane.

Lara primarily appeared in action films in the late 1980s and 1990s but was best known for playing Tarzan in Tarzan in Manhattan (1989) and Tarzan: The Epic Adventures (1996-1997). He retired from acting to pursue country music and married Shamblin Lara in August 2018.

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In 1999, Shamblin Lara founded the Remnant Fellowship. The church is controversial for Shamblin Lara's "faith-based" weight loss ideas, with the church's website listing food as idols that should be "laid down" ahead of "drugs, depression, self-focus, money, anger, selfishness, envy, and jealousy." She also preached that children must obey their parents, wives obey their husbands and members obey church leaders, notes The Tennessean. Her daughter, Elizabeth Shamblin Hannah, was not on the flight and married Hannah, one of the crash victims.