ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – Emergency teams from across Carter County responded to the plane crash on Thursday.
They told us what they encountered and how they reacted during the emergency.
It only took about two minutes for the Elizabethton Fire Department and Carter County Rescue Squad to arrive on scene once they received the call about the crash.
Friday afternoon, they were recalling their steps leading up to what some say was the worst plane crash they have ever responded to.
“I’ve seen a lot of bad situations, this is the biggest plane crash I’ve ever seen, biggest one I’ve ever had anything to do with,” Deputy Chief Steve Murray with the Elizabethton Fire Department said.
The horrific scene is forever etched in the minds of the first responders.
“When the plane came through a section of chainlink fence, the plane brought the fence with it. Still attached to the rest of the fence, still on the ground. It wrapped the fence around the plane,” Chief Deputy Murray said. “If the fence had have been five feet forward, around the plane, the occupants wouldn’t have been able to get out,” Chief Deputy Murray said.
However, on Friday, it was a sigh of relief.
Chief Deputy Murray said, “It was a good day. Nobody was hurt.”
The Elizabethton Fire Department and the Carter County Rescue Squad were the first responders on scene.
“The first thing is the people on board, you know are they out? That kind of goes through your mind,” EMS director for Carter County Terry Arnold said.
“My initial concern was their safety. I went to check on them to make sure they weren’t injured and everything was good,” Chief Deputy Murray said. “They have a checklist in their mind. The first thing is life safety. That was the first goal, and incident stabilization.”
They aided Dale Earnhardt Junior, his family and two pilots on board the grounded Cessna 680A private plane.
The most daunting part was the flames mixed with Thursday’s heat.
EMS Director Arnold said, “The first thing you could see is the smoke coming from the air craft, and once we got on the scene, you could see that after we got here, within just a few minutes it started really getting intense from the flames and the heat.”
“A crash like this is to look for trauma. That’s what we look for. Back injuries, neck injuries and all that,” EMS Director Arnold said. “And we package the patient up and take them to the local hospital.”
Crews gave credit to extensive training for Thursday’s rescue.
“If we would have had three weeks to plan for this, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. Everything fell right into place. If we had it to do over again, we would totally do it the same way,” Chief Deputy Murray said. “Our guys did an exceptional job, putting the fire out, containing everything and it was a good day.”
First responders are now waiting for the National Transportation Safety Board to remove the plane from the scene to undergo further investigation.