A plane carrying retired Nascar pilot Dale Earnhardt Jr., his wife and daughter, was involved in a violent fire on Thursday afternoon at a Tennessee airport, officials said.
The plane, a Cessna Citation registered with the race team, owned by Earnhardt, overflowed after landing at 3:40 pm and caught fire at the Elizabethton Municipal Airport in eastern Tennessee, the Federal Aviation Administration.
Earnhardt, who works as an analyst for the NBC television channel since retiring as a full-time driver in 2017, was traveling with his wife and 15-month-old daughter, two pilots and the family dog, said the sheriff Dexter Lunceford of Carter County. The airport is 24 km from Bristol Motor Speedway, where Earnhardt is part of the comment team scheduled for the Saturday night race.
Elizabethton Fire Chief Barry Carrier initially stated that Earnhardt and the other passengers had not been injured, but later clarified that the two-time champion of the Daytona 500 had been transported to Johnson City Medical Center for minor injuries, reported local affiliate WJHL-TV.
Earnhardt's sister, Kelley, confirmed that everyone on board was safe in a statement to the Guardian.
"Dale, Amy and Isla, as well as her two pilots, were involved in an accident in Bristol, Tennessee, this afternoon," the statement said. "Everyone is safe and was taken to the hospital for further evaluation. We do not have any other information yet. "
The accident occurred within 20 miles (32 km) of the city where NASCAR 1992 champion Alan Kulwicki was among the four people killed in a light aircraft crash in 1993.
Earnhardt, 44, is one of the best known drivers in the history of the race for stock cars. He won the Nascar's most popular driver award for the 15th consecutive year, from 2003 to his last full-time season.
He is the son of Dale Earnhardt Sr, seven-time NASCAR champion, mortally wounded in a wreck in the last round of the 2001 Daytona 500, a tragedy that put sport back into place and led to a rigorous re-engagement with driver safety. Earnhardt's grandfather, Ralph, also participated in 51 races at the highest level of NASCAR.