NTSB releases new details in Dale Jr. plane crash in Elizabethton last August
Hundreds of new documents and photos have been released by the NTSB concerning a plane crash in Elizabethton last August involving Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family.
An examination summary described that the aircraft, approaching the runway at Elizabethton Municipal Airport, touched down on the runway and bounced, then climbed back up about 25 feet before descending rapidly and landing hard on the runway. The aircraft’s right landing gear collapsed and the right wing tip contacted the runway. The report said skid marks from the right main gear and right main gear door indicated the plane traveled slightly to the left before turning back to the right. The plane then left the runway, descended down a hill for approximately 400 feet, and traveled over a 25 foot wide creek. The left main landing gear and nose gear separated from the aircraft when it struck the opposite creek bank. It then slid back up a hill before coming to rest just before Highway 91. The aircraft then caught fire according to the report.
Pilot and passenger testimony described the close escape as the plane became engulfed in flames. According to NTSB’s record of conversation with pilots Jeffrey Melton and Richard Pope, the two yelled to Earnhardt Jr. and the family to “hold on” as the aircraft skidded and crashed into a fence before it slid through the gas and came to a rest. Earnhardt Jr. in his record of conversation, said he tried and could not get the emergency over the wing exit door open, even with help from one of the pilots. Earnhardt Jr. also told investigators they were unable to get the rear exit door open, and at that point heavy smoke and flames were visible in the lavatory. The pilots tried twice to open the main cabin door, and was successful on the second attempt. The pilots said the evacuation time took between 2-3 minutes, and only one report of minor injuries was mentioned in the documents. Among those on the plane were two pilots, Dale Earnhardt Jr., his wife, one year daughter, and the family’s dog.
An accident report from Pratt & Whitney Canada determined the aircraft did not appear to have any issues with its engines or other parts of the plane when it crashed. A final report with the final determination of the cause of the accident is set to be released by the NTSB in the coming months.
Below are several reports made available in the NTSB’s release of 256 pages of documents this week:
Below are newly released photos from the accident scene:
Photo & Document Courtesy: National Transporation Safety Board