Smoke billowed from the former NASCAR driver’s Cessna 680 business jet after the accident at the Elizabethton Municipal Airport.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s private plane crashed Thursday at a Tennessee airport, and the former NASCAR driver was transported to an area hospital, a spokesperson for the Carter County Sheriff’s Department told USA TODAY Sports.
“Based on initial reports, everyone made it out alive,” spokesman Thomas Gray said.
Earnhardt, his wife, Amy, infant daughter Isla and two pilots were aboard the Cessna Citation that crashed around 3:40 p.m. ET, Earnhardt’s sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, posted on Twitter.
Elizabethton Fire Chief Barry Carrier said the passengers escaped the wreckage while the plane was engulfed in flames after the crash during a landing at Elizabethton Municipal Airport. The plane, Carrier said, wrapped around a fence at the end of the runway and slid to a fiery stop in a grassy area before the Earnhardts, two pilots and a dog evacuated the crash site.
Earnhardt was taken to a local hospital for observation with no serious injuries, Carrier said. NBC Sports said Earnhardt was discharged from the hospital.
“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 NTSB announced Thursday evening that the agency was sending two investigators to the scene of the “runway excursion.”
The airport where the crash occurred 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.
“We’re incredibly grateful that Dale, his wife Amy, daughter Isla, and the two pilots are safe following today’s accident,” NBC Sports said in a statement. “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. We look forward to having him back in the booth next month at Darlington.”
Follow A.J. Perez on Twitter @byajperez. Contributing: Nick Gray, The (Nashville) Tennessean