Dale Earnhardt Jr, his wife Amy and their daughter avoided tragedy in August 2019 after a plane they were on crashed in Tennessee. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the incident and recently released its initial findings. The NTSB revealed that Earnhardt helped save his family from the flames.
According to the report, the former NASCAR driver and the two pilots were unable to open the emergency exit over the wing after the plane crashed in Elizabethton. Earnhardt told the NTSB that he then told pilot Jeffrey Melton to try the main cabin door. Melton was able to kick open the door and squeeze through. At this point, the fire was visible in the lavatory.
"Earnhardt then handed his daughter, who was in his arms, to the pilot, and then they each squeezed out the opening," the report said. The opening was reportedly the size of a conventional oven. The NTSB noted three passengers suffered minor injuries in the crash.
Cheryl Campbell, a witness who served in the Air Force and worked as a flight attendant for two decades, provided a written statement to the NTSB. She said that she was driving when she saw the plane burst into flames. Campbell told investigators that she ran to the plane and saw an unidentified man struggling and not walking. She asked for his name but did not immediately recognize the former NASCAR driver.
"He tried to get up and could not and was asking if his wife and child were out and ok," Campbell wrote. "I assured him I had checked his wife and child and both were ok. I also told him his dog was ok when he asked."
The report also discussed the cause of the crash. NTSB investigators said that part of the landing gear collapsed and that the right wing hit the runway as the plane bounced twice before touching down a third time. Pilot Richard Pope and Melton applied thrust reversers, which help an airplane decelerate during a landing. However, "power never comes."
"After they attempted to increase power, and they did not feel the power come, power was pulled to idle, and the thrust reversers were again applied as the airplane touched down for the third time," the report said. The plane crashed through a chain-link fence and came to a rest at the edge of Tennessee Highway 91. This location is when the aircraft caught on fire and prompted the emergency evacuation.