Elizabethton, Tennessee (CBS) — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is trying to figure out what went wrong after a fiery plane crash in Tennessee. NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr., his wife and their young daughter escaped the flames unharmed.
Investigators said weather was not an issue and the pilots didn’t report any problems before landing. John Goglia, a former NTSB board member believes pilot error is unlikely.
“So when the landing gear fails and leaves the aircraft it normally severs all hydraulic lines,” Goglia said. “Certainly his breaking power had grossly diminished as soon as that landing gear failed.”
Investigators are now looking at surveillance video, showing the plane as it landed.
“The airport itself, the runway is about 4,500 feet long. The airplane was capable of landing at this runway. We don’t see any indications that the initial touchdown was too long,” said Ralph Hicks, an NTSB senior investigator.
But it was a hard landing. The aircraft bounced twice causing the right main landing gear to collapse. It then hit a chain link fence and came to rest near a busy highway.
A piece of a chain link fence wrapped around the body of the plane. The sheriff said had that fence been a few feet away, it may have blocked the door where the Earnhardts got out.
The wreckage will be on the street for about two to three days while the NTSB continues their investigation. They will then take the voice data recorder and send that to Washington, D.C., for analysis.