Dale Earnhardt Jr. plane skids off runway, catches fire; NASCAR driver OK – KABC-TV

ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. — Racecar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and two of his family members are OK after their plane skidded off a runway and caught fire in Tennessee, according to a local official.

Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford told ABC News that Earnhardt, his wife Amy and his child were aboard a plane that appeared to have burst into flames after landing at Elizabethton Municipal Airport. The pilot, another individual and the family’s dog were also aboard.

Earnhardt was conscious and talking when he was taken to nearby Johnson City Medical Center, Lunceford said. No serious injuries were reported.

ESPN reporter Marty Smith said Earnhardt told him via text message that he and his family are OK.

Kelley Earnhardt Miller, Dale Jr.’s sister, said in a tweet that “everyone is safe and has been taken to the hospital for further evaluation.” She said the other individual onboard was a second pilot.

Eyewitness photos showed the white Cessna on the runway with flames and dark smoke billowing out of the back of the aircraft.

Racecar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and two of his family members are OK after their plane skidded off a runway and caught fire in north Tennessee. (@jwilber05/Twitter)

The FAA confirmed that a Cessna Citation rolled off the runway after landing at Elizabethton Municipal Airport. The agency also said that none of the five people aboard were injured.
The FAA said it will work with the NTSB to determine the cause of the accident.

The Carter County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement posted to Facebook that the Elizabethton Police Department, Elizabethton Fire Department, Tennessee Highway Patrol and Carter County Rescue Squad responded to the scene.

Earnhardt retired as a full-time racer in 2017 currently works for NBC as a NASCAR commentator. There is a NASCAR race scheduled Saturday night in Bristol, about 20 miles from the airport where the plane crashed.

This incident comes 26 years after former driver and 1992 Cup champion Alan Kulwicki died in a plane crash while on his way to the spring race at Bristol from a promotional appearance in Knoxville, Tennessee. That crash at Tri-City Regional Airport in Blountville, Tennessee, killed a total of four people.

Earnhardt was part of Rick Hendrick’s racing team in 2011 when Hendrick broke a rib and a collarbone while on a small jet that lost its brakes and crash landed in an airport at Key West, Florida. Hendrick’s son, brother and twin nieces were among 10 people killed in a 2004 crash of a plane traveling to a race in Virginia.

This isn’t the first fiery crash for Earnhardt. He still has a burn scar on his neck from a crash at Sonoma in 2004 during warmups for an American Le Mans Series race that left him with second-degree burns.

Earnhardt has a history of concussions that plagued him over his final years as a driver.

He won NASCAR’s most popular driver award a record 15 times with 26 career Cup victories.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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