Retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., his family and two pilots survived aThursday after a hard landing at a Tennessee airport. First responders arrived at the scene to help — and this weekend NASCAR thanked them for taking care of one of its legends with free tickets to the races.
"We had a great time with our first responder family at the BMS night race!" wrote the Carter County Tennessee Sheriff's Office on its Facebook page Saturday. "A big thank you to NASCAR for giving us and all the agencies that responded to Dale Jr.'s plane crash free tickets!"
BMS refers to the Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Earnhardt Jr., his wife Amy and baby daughter, Isla, were in the area near the Speedway where he was expected to join the broadcast team to cover a race this Earnhardt Jr. retired from NASCAR in 2017 and has since been working as an analyst..
The sheriff's office posted four photos of the event, two of which appear to be first responders and their families watching the race from the stands. The other images show a massive American flag being held next to the race track and the track itself.
In the aftermath of the crash, video shows first responders treating Earnhardt Jr. He was hospitalized and eventually discharged following the crash at Elizabethton Municipal Airport, according to CBS affiliate WJHL.
The Cessna Citation business jet rolled off the end of runway 24 and caught fire after landing at the airport at 3:40 p.m Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement. Videos on social media showed a large plume of smoke and the aircraft on its side.
The FAA will investigate and two investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board will determine the probable cause of the accident.
Peter Martinez and Omar Villafranca contributed to this report