BRISTOL, T.N. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - When you look at the charred wreckage of a plane on the tarmac at Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Tennessee it's hard to believe anyone got out alive. Many say it's a miracle Dale Earnhardt Jr., his wife Amy and daughter Isla survived the fiery crash Thursday afternoon.
Black smoke was billowing into the air and shut down parts of a Tennessee highway after the plane carrying the Hall of Fame NASCAR driver and his family went up in flames around 3:30 p.m.
"It's horrifying, you can smell jet fuel," witness Sarah Goodman said.
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Earnhardt and his family escaped the burning aircraft along with the two pilots who were also on board.
"I was on the other side. It looks like the aircraft overshot the runway."
The first person on scene was a retired airline attendant who opened the door and helped pull the family out of the smoking plane.
"The only thing I can say is that they were extremely lucky," Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said.
The Carter County Sheriff's Office says they had small cuts and bruises but no one was seriously injured. Earnhardt Jr. was the only one taken to the hospital. He was released Thursday night.
"There's a mark in the road, it looks like it maybe hit and then slid alongside," Goodman said.
Earnhardt and his family were headed to Bristol for the weekend's NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway where he was expected to commentate.
"I was hoping everyone was alright, I'm just glad they are," fan Keith Williams said.
People who saw the crash are thankful everyone survived the scary incident.
"Quick instincts got them out, the pilots were safe, that's all that matters," said Goodman.
The FAA and National Transportation Board will determine the cause of the crash. Tonight they are still investigating.