Championship NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick and his wife are recovering at home in Charlotte after each suffered minor injuries Monday night when the small jet carrying them to Key West, Fla., lost its brakes and crash landed at the island's airport.
Officials on the scene told the Associated Press that the Gulfstream 150 ran off the runway at Key West International Airport Monday at 7:45 p.m., and that Rick and Linda Hendrick, as well as a pilot and co-pilot, were taken to Lower Keys Medical Center. Hendrick suffered a broken rib and clavicle, and Linda was treated for minor cuts and bruises, according to Hendrick Motorsports. The pilots were evaluated and released without injury, and all four have returned to North Carolina.
The plane was registered to five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, one of four Hendrick Motorsports drivers. Johnson said Tuesday that the aircraft operates out of Hendrick as part of a joint operating agreement. The plane, which remains in Key West, is capable of seating up to eight or nine people.
"It really shakes you down to the core," Johnson said. "I'm just so thankful that Rick and Linda and the pilots are home in Charlotte, and not badly injured, and everybody's going to be OK. But it certainly gets your attention."
The crash comes seven years and two weeks after a Hendrick plane carrying 10 people veered off course in foggy conditions and crashed en route to a race in Martinsville, Va. Hendrick's son Ricky, his brother and team president John, two of Hendrick's nieces and chief engine builder Randy Dorton were among those lost in the 2004 accident.
Monday, the Gulfstream's pilot and co-pilot radioed that the aircraft had no brakes upon landing in Key West, the Monroe County Sheriff's Department told the AP. The plane ran off the runway, and then 100 feet beyond into a 600-foot safety area that was completed in May, county airport director Peter Horton told the AP.
"If we hadn't done that, it likely would have been a different story," Horton said.
Johnson was relieved. "I'm so thankful it turned out the way it did," he said. "It certainly was a scary event, I can only imagine. But everything did its job, and as time goes on we'll learn a lot more about the details and what happened down there."
Johnson said he spoke briefly with Hendrick on Tuesday morning.
"It's been a long night for him. He's trying to get some rest," Johnson said. "We just touched base, and I know he's OK. It's just nice to hear his voice and to hear him say he's fine and OK, and Linda is as well along with the pilots. That's really just the short, brief thing along those lines, and that was it."
The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the accident. Tuesday, Johnson was still unsure of many details.
"There are a lot of really good, smart people working on getting answers to these questions so we can all understand what exactly took place," he said. "As we all understand, there was a brake issue with the plane landing, all four on board are OK and home back in Charlotte. I'm thankful everything turned out well with the crash, and there weren't any major injuries down there. Certainly a crazy evening for everybody involved, and I'm just thankful everybody is OK."