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Highway 91 reopened Monday afternoon after Earnhardt crash cleanup

John Thompson • Updated Aug 19, 2019 at 9:19 PM

UPDATE at 3:20 p.m.

Tennessee Department of Transportation officials gave the OK on Monday afternoon to reopen state Route 91 near the Elizabethton Municipal Airport after Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s jet crashed there last week.

Crews milled away asphalt damaged by the plane crash and repaved parts of the road. Inspectors also checked a culvert under the road, into which burning jet fuel spilled when the Cessna went down.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are still looking into the cause of the crash, but an NTSB investigator said last week video showed the jet bouncing on the small airport’s runway and the right landing gear collapsing before the plane crashed through a chain-link fence and onto the road.

A preliminary report on the findings of the crash investigation will likely be released in about a week.

Neither Earnhardt, his wife, their daughter, the pilot and co-pilot nor the family dog were seriously injured in the crash. Earnhardt, a retired NASCAR driver and television commentator flying in for the weekend races at Bristol Motor Speedway, was taken to the Johnson City Medical Center for examination, but was later released.

Previously reported:

ELIZABETHTON — Work crews from the Tennessee Department of Transportation were at work in the early morning on Monday to reopen a section of the Stoney Creek Highway closed since a plane carrying the Dale Earnhardt Jr. family crashed on Thursday afternoon. Traffic has been detoured through a section of the Watauga Industrial Park while the remains of the plane was removed to Georgia, the jet fuel spill was cleaned up ad the highway was repaired. By Monday, the only work left to compete was the work on getting the highway ready to reopen for normal traffic.

“The roadway is expected to be back open by the end of the day,” said Mark Nagi, TDOT community relations officer for the Eastern Region.

Nagi said the spilled jet fuel caused some damage to the asphalt. TDOT crews have been working on Monday to remove the damaged asphalt by milling it. The section of road is also being repaved.

Another concern was the structural integrity of a culvert that crossed a drainage channel. Spilled jet fuel flowed into the channel and caught fire under the culvert. Flames were visible in the culvert on Thursday afternoon. Nagi said TDOT bridge inspectors examined the structure and determined that it was safe for traffic to be allowed over it.

Nagi said as soon as the milling and repaving work is completed on Monday, the detour will be removed and the section of highway will be reopened.

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