An investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board said last Friday that the plane carrying Dale Earnhardt Jr., his wife Amy and their daughter Isla “basically bounced at least twice” before ending up on fire in the middle of a Tennessee highway.
The Earnhardts and the two pilots on board were able to get out of the plane safely Thursday after it came to rest approximately 1,000 feet past the end of the runway at the Elizabethton (Tenn.) Municipal Airport at about 3:40 p.m. Earnhardt Jr. was transported to Johnson City Medical Center after the crash but was released from the hospital a few hours later.
Senior investigator Ralph Hicks said Friday that the NTSB would be on site for two or three more days while investigating the crash. He said investigators were able to find surveillance video footage that shows the crash and the crash footage is consistent with what the two pilots of the airplane told investigators.
In addition to noting that the plane had bounced at least twice, Hicks noted that it had come down hard on the right main landing gear. He also said investigators had walked the runway and saw tire and skid marks that were consistent with the airplane though there hasn’t been a determination of just where the plane first touched down.
In its preliminary report, which was released Friday, the NTSB states the pilots attempted to do a go-around following the second bounce, but the plane did not respond as expected. The report added that the landing gear on the right side “collapsed.”
According to the NTSB: The pilots also reported that, following the second bounce, a go-around was attempted; however, the airplane did not respond as expected, so they landed straight-ahead on the runway and could not stop the airplane prior to the excursion. #Nascar pic.twitter.com/qIiWXXA5nF
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) August 23, 2019
Hicks said that investigators have determined that Junior’s plane caught fire after it had crash-landed and that the crash landing took a matter of seconds. The runway at Elizabethton Municipal is approximately 4,500 feet long and the Cessna Citation was capable of landing at a runway of that length.
The plane had a voice recorder, Hicks said, which was sent to NTSB headquarters in Washington D.C. for download. Hicks also noted that the surveillance footage that investigators have reviewed would become public at some point after investigators are done with it.
Earnhardt Jr.’s sister Kelley released a statement last Friday morning thanking the people who had responded to the plane crash and said the family would have no further comment in the immediate future.
“We want to reiterate our appreciate 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 their investigation and will have no further comment at this time.”
The Elizabethton Municipal Airport is located southeast of Bristol Motor Speedway, the site of last Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race. Junior was set to call that race for NBC Sports but skipped the race broadcast.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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