Pilot Likely to Blame for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Plane Crash, According to Investigators

Former NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family survived a plane crash in Tennessee last year, and a new report reveals how the crash happened. According to a report from the National Transporation Safety Board, per the Associated Press, the pilot's inability to maintain the proper airspeed and the flight crew's decision to continue an unstable appearance and landing caused the crash, which carried Earnhardt, his wife Amy and their daughter Isla, who was 15 months old at the time. There were also two pilots on the plane, and everyone survived.

The crash occurred in Elizabethton, Tennesse on Aug. 15, 2019. The NTSB said the landing gear collapsed and a section of the right-wing hit the runway as the plane bounced before landing with 1,000 feet of paved surfaces remaining. The plane stopped on the edge of Tennessee Highway 91, and Earnhardt and his family were able to evacuate through the main cabin as the plane caught on fire. One of the pilots, Richard Pope, told the NTSB that he was going faster on the approach because the plane "slows down so easy."

"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 preliminary report released in July stated. Co-pilot Jeffery Melton said after the thrust was increased, "the power never comes." And instead of attempting a "go around," the pilots attempted to land the plane, which ultimately caused the crash.

"Contributing to the accident was the pilot's failure to deploy the speedbrakes during the initial touchdown, which may have prevented the runway excursion," the report said. Ultimately, the pilots and Earnhardt's family could get out of the plane after the crash safely. Shortly after the crash, Earnhardt went to social media to thank everyone for their support.

"We are truly blessed that all on board escaped with no serious injuries, including our daughter, our two pilots, and our dog Gus," Earnhardt said in a statement. "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."