'Tarzan' Actor Joe Lara, Six Others Killed as Plane Crashes into Tennessee Lake

June 1, 2021

“Tarzan: The Epic Adventures” actor Joe Lara was killed in a plane crash that left his wife and five others dead in Tennessee over the weekend.

The 58-year-old was with his wife, church founder Gwen Shamblin Lara, when the plane crashed into Percy Priest Lake outside of Nashville, Rutherford County Fire & Rescue said.

Joe Lara first portrayed the titular adventurer in 1989′s “Tarzan in Manhattan,” a made-for-TV movie in which the character travels from Africa to New York City.

He took on the role again in the “Tarzan: The Epic Adventures” series, which aired for one season beginning in 1996 and centered on Tarzan’s feats in Africa.

Officials say Lara, his wife and five others were aboard a small jet when it crashed into the lake shortly after it took off before 11 a.m. Saturday. The jet had been traveling from Smyrna Airport, located about 24 miles southeast of Nashville, to Palm Beach International Airport in Florida.

“Recovery efforts are ongoing on the lake from the Weakley Lane bridge to the Lamar Hill Boat Ramp,” John Ingle, captain and incident commander of the fire and rescue team, said in an update Sunday afternoon. “We are asking all civilian boaters to stay clear of those areas.”

Authorities say human remains and components of the jet have been recovered.

“The debris field is approximately a half of a mile wide,” Ingle said Sunday.

Born William Joseph Lara, the actor also appeared in the 1990 made-for-TV movie “Gunsmoke: The Last Apache” and on an episode of “Baywatch” in 1993.

The San Diego-born Lara continued acting into the 2000s, with roles in the action movie “Doomsdayer” and in the crime-comedy flick “Very Mean Men,” which starred Matthew Modine.

Lara and his wife also starred in a YouTube series, “Life with Gwen and Joe,” with nearly 2,000 subscribers.

The actor and Shamblin, a former dietitian, married in 2018.

Shamblin, who founded Remnant Fellowship Church in 1999 after the success of her Christian diet program “The Weigh Down Workshop,” was dogged by accusations that her church was more of a cult than a religious institution, according to News 5 in Nashville. Followers claimed to view her as a prophet and the station previously reported a recording in which she praised parents for locking up their child as a form of obedience training.

Those parents, Joseph and Sonya Smith, were convicted of murdering their son in 2007. The Remnant Church was raided as part of the investigation.

During an appearance on Larry King’s show, Shamblin told the interviewer that she looked at concentration camps in devising her weight loss program.

“How in the Holocaust did you have all these people getting down real skinny?” she said on the show. “They ate less food.”

The other five victims in Saturday’s plane crash were identified by authorities as Jessica and Jonathan Walters, Jennifer and David Martin, and Brandon Hannah.

Each of the victims was from Brentwood, Tennessee, according to officials. They were each part of the Remnant Fellowship Church, according to E! News.

In an update Sunday, the fire and rescue team said the investigation would continue at the scene until dark. It was expected to pick up again Monday morning.

The update cited the National Transportation Safety Board in saying the “entire investigation can take up to one to two years to complete.”

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