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Stock car racing legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. thanked emergency crews on Monday in his first public comments after he, his family and two pilots survived a fiery plane crash in Tennessee last week.
"We are truly blessed that all on board escaped with no serious injuries, including our daughter, our two pilots and our dog Gus," Earnhardt said in a statement posted on Twitter and Instagram, adding: "I am thankful for the quick response of my pilots, local law enforcement, emergency personnel and hospital staff."
Earnhardt, 44, the retired winner of 26 NASCAR Cup series races and son of the Hall of Fame racer Dale Earnhardt Sr., was the only person aboard who was admitted to the hospital after the Cessna Citation Latitude went down at about 3:40 p.m. at Elizabethton Municipal Airport in northeast Tennessee on Thursday. He was released a few hours later.
In addition to the two pilots, also aboard were Earnhardt's wife, Amy Reimann, a prominent interior decorator in North Carolina, the Earnhardts' 15-month-old daughter, Isla, and family dog Gus.
Investigators said everyone aboard was extremely lucky to survive after the plane bounced multiple times, veered off the runway and ended up in flames on a highway.
In a post on Instagram, Reimann quoted Psalms 91:11: "For he will put his angels in charge of you, to guard you in all your ways."
The posts were the first public statements by the Earnhardts, although Dale Earnhardt did speak off-camera to an ESPN reporter, who said Earnhardt thanked emergency crews.
Earnhardt is a NASCAR analyst and commentator for NBC Sports, which broadcast races last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, one of NASCAR's marquee raceways. Earnhardt was given the weekend off to recover, the network said.
NASCAR gave free tickets to the weekend's races to all of the responding agencies in thanks, the Carter County Sheriff's Office said on Facebook.