Smoke billowed from the former NASCAR driver’s Cessna 680 business jet after the accident at the Elizabethton Municipal Airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement Friday that the plane carrying Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family experienced a “hard landing, bounced, departed the runway and caught fire” on Thursday.
Earnhardt Jr., his wife, Amy, and daughter, Isla, and two pilots survived the fiery plane crash at the Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Tennessee. The Cessna 680A Citation Latitude, a 10-seat plane owned by Earnhardt, ran off a 5,000-foot runway before going down a ditch and through a chain-link fence.
Earnhardt was taken to a local hospital for observation with no serious injuries. He has since been discharged.
Elizabethton fire chief Barry Carrier confirmed to USA TODAY Sports that the plane wrapped around a fence at the end of the runway and slid to a fiery stop in a grassy area before the Earnhardts, pilots and a dog evacuated the crash site.
“The first word to come to my mind is that they were very lucky,” Carrier said. “It looks like everything worked in their favor instead of against them.”
The airport is located about 15 miles south of Bristol Motor Speedway, site of this weekend’s NASCAR race. Earnhardt has been part of NBC Sports’ NASCAR broadcast crew since he retired from full-time racing at the end of the 2017 season, but he will not work the Bristol race.
Kelly Earnhardt Miller, general manager of JR Motorsports and Earnhardt’s sister, issued a statement Friday: “We want to reiterate our appreciation to the NASCAR community, first responders, medical staff and race fans everywhere for the overwhelming support in the last 24 hours. Dale, Amy, Isla and our two pilots are doing well. We are assisting the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board in the investigation and will have no further comment at this time.”
Contributing: A.J. Perez.