Ex-racer Earnhardt Jr, family escape plane crash

Dale Earnhardt Jr. escaped without serious injury from a small plane crash Thursday in Tennessee (AFP Photo/Stacy Revere)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. escaped without serious injury from a small plane crash Thursday in Tennessee (AFP Photo/Stacy Revere)

Washington (AFP) - Former US stock car racer Dale Earnhardt Jr., his wife Amy and their one-year-old daughter escaped unharmed from a small plane crash Thursday at a Tennessee airport, the family confirmed.

Earnhardt was on his way to nearby Bristol to work as a television commentator for this week's US stock car race, when the plane carrying him and his family ran off the runway and caught fire upon landing at Elizabethton Municipal Airport, the Clark County Sheriff's Office said.

Earnhardt was taken to a nearby hospital with cuts and bruises but there appeared to be no major injuries to him, his wife, daughter Isla and two pilots of the Cessna Citation plane.

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"I can confirm Dale, Amy & Isla along with his two pilots were involved in a crash in Bristol TN this afternoon," tweeted Kelley Earnhardt, Dale Jr's sister. "Everyone is safe and has been taken to the hospital for further evaluation."

ESPN reported that Earnhardt said he and his family were all right in a text message.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a statement confirming it has started an investigation into the crash.

"A Cessna Citation rolled off the end of Runway 24 and caught fire after landing at Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Tennessee at 3:40 p.m. today," the FAA said. "Preliminary indication is that two pilots and three passengers were aboard."

"The FAA will investigate and the National Transportation Safety Board will determine probable cause of the accident."

Earnhardt, 44, was a two-time Daytona 500 champion driver -- in 2004 and 2014 -- and is the son of the late US stock car racing legend Dale Earnhardt Sr.

The younger Earnhardt retired in 2017 with 26 victories on the primary National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) Cup series.

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