New report reveals how Dale Earnhardt Jr., family escaped fiery plane crash

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his pilots struggled to open a crashed airplane’s emergency exit as the aircraft began to burn and fill with smoke, eventually kicking the door open to allow the retired race car driver and his family to escape, a new federal report reveals.

The ex-NASCAR star’s private Cessna Citation Latitude ran off the end of the runway at Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Carter County, Tenn., and became engulfed in flames.

Earnhardt, a retired NASCAR star and TV analyst, survived the 2019 crash with wife Amy, 15-month-old daughter Isla, two pilots and the family dog.

A just-released report by the National Transportation Safety Board says Earnhardt and the pilots were unable to open the emergency exit door over the wing after the plane hit the ground — just feet from a highway.

As the plane filled with smoke and flames, a pilot kicked open the main cabin door wide enough for everyone to flee, the report says.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. plane crash
The plane that crashed with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family in it is seen after the accident.AP

The NTSB found part of the landing gear collapsed and a section of the right wing hit the runway as the plane bounced twice before touching down a third time with 1,000 feet of surface remaining.

The aircraft went through a chain-link fence before crashing on the edge of Tennessee Highway 91.

Pilot Richard Pope told the NTSB that he was carrying extra speed on the approach to the runway because the airplane “slows down so easy.”

Earnhardt later said he was “truly blessed” that he and his family had walked away unscathed.


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