Preliminary report on Dale Earnhardt Jr. plane crash

nascarA preliminary report was released on Friday based upon early findings by the Federal Aviation Administration in regard to the plane crash at Elizabethton’s Municipal Airport involving Dale Earnhardt Jr., his family and the plane’s crew.

The FAA announced in its initial report that the plane,“experienced a hard landing” and “bounced, departed the runway and caught fire at the Elizabethton Municipal Airport.”

Earnhardt, Jr, NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver and the son of seven time NASCAR Champion, Dale Earnhardt, and a member of the NASCAR on NBC broadcast crew, was on his way to Elizabethton, just outside of Johnson City, TN to attend the upcoming Xfinity and Monster Energy Cup series races at nearby Bristol Motor Speedway, when the Cessna 688A Citation rolled off the end of a runway and caught fire after landing around 3:40 p.m. on Thursday afternoon.

The passengers all departed the plane on their own power, but the plane was “pretty much destroyed,” according to Elizabethton Fire Chief Barry Carrier. Earnhardt Jr., his family and the crew were briefly tended to on site and then transported to Johnson City Medical Center for evaluation and later released.

Carrier told the media in attendance that Earnhardt, his family and the plane’s crew were “very lucky” that the “exit door wasn’t blocked” after the Cessna hit the fence when it skidded off the runway.

Carrier confirmed that a “section of fence was wrapped around the plane,”  adding that “if that would have been where the door was, it would have been a lot more difficult for them to get the door open. So it looks like everything worked in their favor instead of against them.”

After the events of Thursday afternoon, you can’t blame Earnhardt and family to pass on the events of Bristol and head back home for some family time.

In fact, NBC Sports agreed with Dale Jr’s decision to spend time with his family and insisted that Dale Jr take some time off to regroup and refresh..

“We’re incredibly grateful that Dale, his wife Amy, daughter Isla, and the two pilots are safe following today’s accident,” an NBC Sports spokesperson said. “After being discharged from the hospital, we communicated with Dale and his team, and we’re all in agreement that he should take this weekend off to be with his family.”

The auto racing sport governing body, NASCAR said it was “extremely relieved” to hear Earnhardt and his family are safe in a statement. “We look forward to seeing Dale back at the race track very soon.”

Dale Jr. is scheduled to resume his broadcast duties later at Darlington.

The investigation by the FAA and the NTSB will continue and a full report issued later after all of the investigation team’s findings are reviewed.

By Rod Mullins | Augusta Free Press

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