Semi-retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family were confirmed to have escaped a plane crash in Tennessee, officials said Thursday.
First responders were alerted that Earnhardt’s private jet, a Cessna Citation, ran off the end of the runway after landing at the Elizabethton Municipal Airport at 3:38 p.m. local time Thursday, according to Elizabethton police and the Carter County Sheriff’s Office. The airport is 68 miles north of Asheville, North Carolina.
The Federal Aviation Administration said there were two pilots and three passengers on board the plane that caught fire, according to a statement obtained by CNN. Elizabethton Fire Chief Barry Carrier told the network that all five people were out of the plane when fire officials arrived.
“When our first unit arrived, there were heavy flames coming from the airplane,” Carrier told CNN, adding that the fire burned for 20 minutes.
The driver’s sister, Kelley Earnhardt, tweeted that her brother, his wife, Amy Earnhardt, and their infant daughter, Isla, were in the plane but that they had escaped and “everyone is safe.”
“Initial reports indicate that all passengers made it off the jet alive,” the sheriff’s office tweeted Thursday evening.
Sheriff Dexter Lunceford told WJHL-TV that Earnhardt was taken to the Johnson City Medical Center for minor injuries described as cuts and abrasions. Earnhardt reportedly texted ESPN’s Marty Smith that he and his family were OK. WCYB-TV reported about 6:45 p.m. that he had been released from the hospital.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it is investigating the incident.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., 44, who is a NASCAR analyst for NBC, no longer drives in NASCAR’s Cup Series but is scheduled to drive in the Xfinity Series race later this month, according to ESPN. He was flying to Tennessee for the Monster Energy NASCAR Series this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, ESPN said.
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