Dale Earnhardt Jr. Plane Crash: New Report Reveals Harrowing Details of Last-Minute Escape From Burning Cockpit

Nearly one year ago, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family were involved in a plane crash in Tennessee. Everyone on the plane was able to escape, but a new report just revealed how dangerous the crash was. The Daily Mail was able to obtain documents released by the National Transportation and Safety Board and stated that the NASCAR legend and one of the pilots struggled to open a crashed airplane's wing emergency exit when the plane started to fill with smoke. Eventually, another pilot was able to kick the main cabin door open so he could exit and then get everyone else to safety.

According to a preliminary report, NTSB investigators said part of the landing gear collapsed, and a section of the right-wing hit the runway as the plane bounced twice before the plane landed. Pilot Richard Pope told the NTSB he was carrying extra speed on the approach to the track because the aircraft "slows down so easy." It led to the initial touchdown being "pretty hard," and the thrust reversers were then applied after the first touchdown.

"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 stated. When the plane came to a stop, the two pilots and Earnhardt tried to get the emergency exit door open. The report then said: "Mr. Earnhardt reported that he told Mr. (Pilot Jeffrey Melton) to try the main cabin door. At this time, fire was now visible in the lavatory." When Milton kicked the door open, "Earnhardt then handed his daughter, who was in his arms, to the pilot, and then they each squeezed out the opening."

One witness, Cheryl Campbell, told the NTSB in a written statement she saw the plane burst into flames after it crash-landed. Campbell, who served in the Air Force and had been a flight attendant for 20 years, ran to the aircraft and saw a man "struggling and not walking," which was Earnhardt. Campbell checked on Earnhardt's wife, child, and dog and told him they're okay. Days after the crash, Earnhardt issued a statement and gave an update on his and the family's health.

"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."