A tragic accident took the life of seven people over the weekend, including veteran movie and TV actor Joe Lara and his wife Gwen. Best known for playing Tarzan in the 1990s TV series Tarzan: The Epic Adventures, Lara and the other victims died when a private jet they were traveling in crashed in Tennessee on Saturday. The actor was 58 years old.
Reportedly, Lara and the others were traveling in a Cessna Citation 501 which crashed into Percy Priest Lake east of Nashville. The incident occurred shortly after the jet departed Smyrna Airport with the passengers heading for Palm Beach, Florida. The cause of the crash has not yet been determined, but the National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating.
Lara's wife, health guru Gwen Lara, had been married to Joe since 2018. The 66-year-old founded the Remnant Fellowship Church in Brentwood, Tennessee in 1999, and has used Bible studies to help people lose weight and quit drinking. Along with Joe and Gwen, the Rutherford County Fire Rescue in Tennessee identified the other victims as Jennifer J. Martin, David L. Martin, Jessica Walters, Jonathan Walters, and Brandon Hannah, all locals from Brentwood that were part of the same church.
One of Lara's very first roles as an actor would also become his most iconic, as he debuted as the Tarzan character in the 1989 TV movie Tarzan in Manhattan. In that movie, Tarzan travels from Africa to New York to avenge the death of his mother and rescue his ape sidekick Cheeta. Someone must have loved him in the part as he reprised the role in 1996 for the TV series Tarzan: The Epic Adventures, which was a prequel set in the days before his marriage to Jane. The show ran for one season with Lara starring in all 22 episodes.
Lara would also appear in a variety of movies in addition to his television work. This includes a starring role in the 1995 sci-fi action movie Steel Frontier alongside Bo Svenson, Kane Hodder, and Stacie Foster. Some of his other movie credits include Sunset Heat, American Cyborg: Steel Warrior, Lima: Breaking the Silence, Operation Delta Force 4: Deep Fault, and Very Mean Men. His final role was in the 2018 movie Summer of '67 in which he played a soap opera actor.
Meanwhile, apart from Tarzan, Lara's other acting credits from the small screen include roles in Baywatch, Tropical Heat, The Magnificent Seven, and Conan the Adventurer. He also appeared in the TV movies Gunsmoke: The Last Apache, and Danger Island. In 1998, Lara appeared in the TV documentary In Search of Tarzan with Jonathan Ross to speak about his experience playing the iconic character.
Lara was also a guitarist. He released an album, Joe Lara: The Cry of Freedom, in 2009. Lara also worked with A Soldier's Child Foundation to help kids who've lost their parents while serving in the military. The actor is also a licensed pilot who's been flying since he was 16 years old, though it's not yet clear if he was the one flying the jet in the fatal crash.
The Laras' survivors include two adult children from Gwen's first marriage, Michael Shamblin and Elizabeth Hannah, and Joe's daughter, Liana. At this time, our thoughts go out to them, along with the loved ones of all of the other victims of this terrible tragedy. Rest in peace. This news comes to us from Deadline.