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Details Emerge From Earnhardt Plane Crash

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 16 2019
Dale Earnhardt Jr. walked away from a serious airplane crash in Tennessee. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

ELIZABETHTON, TENN. – Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s jet bounced at least twice on the Elizabethton Municipal Airport runway before the landing gear collapsed, NTSB senior investigator Ralph Hicks said Friday.

“We were able to obtain surveillance video from buildings around the area that included footage of the accident happening,” Hicks said during a press conference at the crash site. “We were able to observe those footages this morning (Friday) and they show quite a bit. The airplane basically bounced at least twice before coming down hard on the right wing landing gear. You could actually see the right wing landing gear collapsing on the video.

“The airplane continued down the runway, off to the end, through a fence and came to a stop behind me on Highway 91.”

Hicks said the public would be able to see the video after the investigation had been completed.

Earnhardt’s Cessna Citation Latitude 680, which has room for two pilots and nine passengers, was carrying the NBC Sports analyst and former NASCAR driver, his wife, their young daughter, dog and two pilots when it crashed Thursday at 3:38 p.m. Everyone escaped the burning plane. Earnhardt was transported to Johnson City Medical Center. He was released that same evening and went to his motor coach at Bristol Motor Speedway with his family. They then returned to their North Carolina home and Earnhardt took this weekend off from his broadcast duties. He was expected to return at Darlington, S.C., in two weeks.

Hicks said the flight originated in Statesville, N.C., and was in the air about 20 minutes. The plane was registered to JRM Air, LLC.

Investigators will remain at the accident scene for two or three days documenting the perishable evidence. 

“Then we will start going into the cockpit, into the fuselage, starting to cut the airplane up and document all the flight controls, the engine controls and all the systems,” Hicks said. “This airplane was equipped with a cockpit voice recorder. That recorder will be sent to our headquarters in Washington, D.C., for download, probably next week.” 

Highway 91 was expected to remain closed for about two days, Hicks said. A crew from Georgia will disassemble the plane and transport it to another facility were a more detailed layout will be made.  

Hicks said they had spoken with the plane’s pilots and the information they provided was consistent with the video. The Earnhardt family’s account of the accident was consistent with the pilots, Hicks said. He noted investigators found tire and skid marks on the runway that were consistent with Earnhardt’s aircraft as well as some debris, but there were no definite touchdown marks on the runway.

A preliminary report will be released in about seven days, Hicks said.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 16 2019
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