NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s plane bounced at least twice before “coming down hard” on the right main landing gear resulting in Thursday’s fiery crash, officials said Friday.
Earnhardt, his wife and their 1-year-old daughter were on board with two pilots during the accident and they all escaped without serious injuries, officials said.
The Cessna Citation took off from Statesville, North Carolina, for a 20-minute afternoon flight before it crashed while landing at Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Elizabethton, Tennessee, Ralph Hicks of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said at a news conference on Friday.
The crash was captured on surveillance video, Hicks said, which showed the plane bounce “at least twice before coming down hard on the right main landing gear.”
“You can actually see the right main landing gear collapsing on the video,” he said.
The plane then continued down the runway, went through a fence, and came to a stop on a highway, Hicks said.
The Earnhardts were able to evacuate before the plane erupted in flames, Hicks said, adding that the fire appeared to start after the crash.
Elizabethton Fire Chief Barry Carrier attributed the blaze to fuel from the aircraft.
The former race car driver was taken to Johnson City Medical Center with cuts and abrasions. He was the only person on board who was hospitalized, according to the sheriff.
A spokesman for NBC Sports, where Earnhardt works as a NASCAR analyst, later said that Earnhardt was discharged from the hospital.
Elizabethton Mayor Curt Alexander said it’s extremely lucky that no cars were involved in the accident.
“We’re just happy everyone walked away and no one on the ground was injured as well,” Alexander said at Friday’s news conference.
Both pilots on board were professionally-trained, Hicks said, and when interviewed by the NTSB they provided information consistent with the surveillance video.
The Earnhardts were interviewed and their comments were also consistent with the video, said Hicks.
The surveillance footage of the accident will eventually be released to the public, he added.
The plane had a cockpit voice recorder which will be sent to NTSB headquarters in Washington, DC., Hicks said.
Earnhardt’s family and employees expressed their relief after the crash.
“We are so grateful for the outpouring of concern and support. Everyone is doing well enough. Lots of hugs. Lots of prayers to the Good Lord,” tweeted Mike Davis, a spokesman for the former NASCAR star.
I know I speak for everyone here in saying we are so grateful for the outpouring of concern and support. Everyone is doing well enough. Lots of hugs. Lots of prayers to the Good Lord. 🙏🏼
— Mike Davis (@MikeDavis88) August 16, 2019
Earnhardt’s sister, Kelley Earnhardt, added on Twitter: “Thank you to God, the angels among us, our pilots, first responders, medical staff, our NASCAR family and everyone that has reached out in whatever way to support us all.”
Finally laying down for the night and want to say thank you to God, the angels among us, our pilots, first responders, medical staff, our NASCAR family and everyone that has reached out in whatever way to support us all. ❤️
— Kelley Earnhardt (@EarnhardtKelley) August 16, 2019