Dale Earnhardt Jr. survives plane crash, officials say

U.S. & World

(CNN) – Dale Earnhardt Jr., famed NASCAR driver, and his wife were involved in a private jet crash in east Tennessee and escaped serious injury, officials said Thursday.

Elizabethton Fire Chief Barry Carrier told CNN affiliate WJHL that Earnhardt and his wife, Amy, were on the plane that crashed at Elizabethton Municipal Airport. Local police said the plane ran off the runway upon landing at 3:38 p.m. ET.

The retired driver’s sister, Kelley, tweeted that those on board were OK.

“Everyone is safe and has been taken to the hospital for further evaluation. We have no further information at this time. Thank you for your understanding,” she wrote.

Earnhardt spent a few hours at a hospital before he was released.

The Federal Aviation Administration said a Cessna Citation rolled off the end of a runway and caught fire after landing. It said it received no reports of injuries.

The FAA said two pilots and three passengers were aboard.

The plane’s tail number was N8JR, the FAA said. During his career, Earnhardt drove a car with the number 8 for many years.

Chief Carrier told CNN that all five people were out of the plane when the fire department arrived.

“When our first unit arrived, there were heavy flames coming from the airplane,” said Carrier. The fire burned for 20 minutes.Carrier says they were transported to Johnson City Medical Center as a precaution.

The jet crashed through a fence, the chief said. The airplane fuselage was wrapped with a portion on the fence when it came to a stop.

“If the fence had blocked the exit that could have been really bad,” Carrier said during an evening news conference. “They were very lucky.”

The aircraft was on fire when the pilots and passengers escaped, Carrier said. He described the aircraft as “pretty much destroyed.”

When a reporter asked about Earnhardt’s condition, the fire chief noted, “He was having a little bit of trouble. They transported him non-emergency.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is sending two accident investigators.

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