Officials are crediting the pilots on Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s plane for getting the former NASCAR star and his family out of danger after the plane crashed in Tennessee last week according to TMZ. The crash was so bad, the plane burst into flames as soon as it hit the ground.
However, the National Transportation Safety Board told TMZ, "the flight crew [which only consisted of the pilot and co-pilot] secured the engines and assisted the passengers with the evacuation."
Earnhardt did mention the pilots' call to action when he released his first statement after the crash.
"Amy and I want to thank everyone who has lifted us up with phone calls, messages, and prayer since last Thursday," Earnhardt said. "We are truly blessed that all on board escaped with no serious injuries, including our daughter, our two pilots, and our dog Gus. With respect to the investigation, we will not be speculating or discussing the cause of the accident. I am thankful for the quick response of my pilots, local law enforcement, emergency personnel, and hospital staff. Lastly, Amy and I continue to be very appreciative of the privacy extended to us to process everything. It has been important to do that together and on our own time."
The cause of the plane crash has yet to be determined. But what was determined was the plane bounced twice off the runway at the Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Tennessee before crashing.
"The airplane basically bounced at least twice before coming down hard on the right main landing gear," National Transportation Safety Board investigator Ralph Hicks said via NBC News. "You can actually see the right main 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 here on Highway 91."
Earnhardt is one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history as he won the Dayton 500 twice. He still races part-time and a fan asked him if he was going to compete next week.
"Yes. I plan on driving still, Earnhardt said on Twitter. "My lower back is bruised up real bad. Lots of swelling and I just need that to go down and the pain to chill out. I've been treating the area every day solely to get well to race. I have a plan B but hope not to use it."