The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday blamed pilots for the 2019 place crash that injured Dale Earnhardt Jr., his wife and their then-1-year-old daughter.
That was part of the finding contained in the NTSB's final report on the crash, which occurred Aug. 15, 2019, at ElizabethtonMunicipal Airport in Tennessee. The NTSB released the full report on Wednesday.
According to the report, all three of the Earnhardt's received minor injuries after the plane skidded off the runway and caught fire. There were no significant injuries to anyone on board. Along with the three members of the Earnhardt family, the pilot, co-pilot and the Earnhardt family dog were on board.
The report found that the plane was coming in too fast for its elevation and proximity to the airport as it approached, with the forward-looking terrain alert going off twice, indicating the plane was closing in on the ground too fast. After the second alert, the co-pilot told the pilot "and I don't need to tell ya, we're really fast."
The crew made multiple other comments about the plane's speed, but by the time the crew tried to take measures to slow the landing, the plane instead bounced on the runway three times.
By the time the plane stopped bouncing, according to the report, "the right main landing gear then collapsed under the wing. The airplane departed the paved surface and came to rest about 600 (feet) beyond the runway threshold. The passengers and crew eventually evacuated the airplane through the main cabin door, and the airplane was destroyed in a post-accident fire."
Among the report's findings, the NTSB attributed the ultimate result to:
"The pilot's continuation of an unstabilized approach despite recognizing associated cues and the flight crew's decision not to initiate a go-around before touchdown, which resulted in a bounced landing, a loss of airplane control, a landing gear collapse, and a runway excursion. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's failure to deploy the speedbrakes during the initial touchdown, which may have prevented the runway excursion, and the pilot's attempt to go around after deployment of the thrust reversers."
The accident occurred as Earnhardt, 45, was flying to Tennessee to cover the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race on Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway as a member of the NBC Sports crew. He was given the weekend off following the accident.
Earnhardt won NASCAR's Most Popular Driver award for 15 consecutive years (2003-17) before retiring as a full-time driver. He won 26 times in the NASCAR Cup Series, including Daytona 500 victories in 2004 and 2014.
He is the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt, the seven-time Winston Cup Series champion who died at 49 due to injuries sustained in a final-lap crash at the 2001 Daytona 500.
--Field Level Media