Percy Priest Plane Crash: The Latest on the Recovery Efforts


On Monday, May 31, local public safety officials, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and other recovery partners continued the active investigation into an incident involving a 1982 Cessna 501 that crashed into Percy Priest Lake Saturday morning.

All indications were that William J. Lara, Gwen S. Lara, Jennifer J. Martin, David L. Martin, Jessica Walters, Jonathan Walters, and Brandon Hannah all of Brentwood, Tennessee were on board the flight that originally left Smyrna airport just before 11:00 a.m. heading to Palm Beach International.

After a very successful two days of recovery efforts, crews were able to locate both of the engines and a significant portion of the jet’s fuselage. Items were lifted from the waters and transported with the assistance of a crane and barge.

Additionally, more human remains were recovered, and Rutherford County Medical Examiner’s Office can now confidently verify that there are seven individuals, four males and three females.

Rutherford County Medical Examiner’s Office, working in partnership with Middle Tennessee Regional Forensic Center, are working with the victims’ families to identify those human remains biologically and scientifically.

During the afternoon hours, crews discovered that due to several possible factors including but not limited to weather and boat traffic, the initial debris field was expanded. They are actively performing dive operations to locate and retrieve other components from the crash. On scene operations are likely to continue Tuesday.

The Lamar Boat ramp and waterway will reopen Tuesday. Fate Sanders Recreation Area will remain closed until further notice.

“I cannot say enough about the teamwork of all agencies represented from our local public safety agencies to our federal partners,” said Rutherford County Public Safety Director Chris Clark. “Our teams are all committed to doing absolutely everything we can to bring closure during this very tragic situation.”

According to NTSB officials, the preliminary investigation could take up to 14 days, and the entire investigation could take up to 18-24 months.

“We release information in a very specific format at specific times,” said NTSB media relations representative Eric Weiss. “Water recoveries are more difficult, so patience is appreciated as it may take some time to release updates.”

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