The NTSB has released information that brings some light to the accident that likely induced a lot more adrenaline than race car driving does to 44-year-old professional driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr., the son of the legendary NASCAR Hall of Fame competitor Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
Earnhardt and his family, who were taking a quick 20-minute hop from Statesville, North Carolina, to Elizabethton, Tennessee, were able to walk away from a fiery wreck after the Cessna Citation Latitude they occupied was unable to stop on the 4,500-foot runway. The Elizabethton Municipal Airport (0A9) does not have a control tower.
Atlanta, Georgia-based NTSB senior investigator Ralph Hicks held a press conference on Friday at the airport. Hicks said the conditions at the time of the accident were VFR with calm winds. Based on information from surveillance videos, Hicks said the business jet bounced “at least twice before coming down hard on the right main landing gear.” The gear collapsed as a result of the hard impact, but the airplane continued down the runway and through a fence before coming to a stop on Highway 91, about 1,000 feet from the end of the runway, Hicks said. Earnhardt, his wife and one-year-old daughter, and the two pilots were able to evacuate safely before fire engulfed the airplane.
The cockpit voice recorder has been recovered and sent to the NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C., for analysis. There was no flight data recorder on board; however, the Garmin G5000 avionics suite contained some flight data that Hicks said would be “very useful to us.”
The Earnhardts and the pilots were interviewed by the NTSB and the “information they provided us is very consistent with the video,” Hicks said. The preliminary NTSB report is expected to be released by the end of this week.