Passengers escape burning jet in Denver; 38 hurt
December 21, 2008
DENVER ” A Continental Airlines jet taking off from Denver veered off the runway into a ravine Saturday night, forcing passengers to evacuate on emergency slides as the plane burned, officials said. Nearly 40 people suffered injuries ranging from broken bones to bumps and bruises.
Denver Fire Department Division Chief Patrick Hynes said a fire associated with the accident burned the entire right side of the plane. Melted plastic from the overhead compartments dripped onto the seats down below, he said. It was unknown when or how the fire started.
Firefighters arriving on the scene described it as “surreal.” ”Much like a movie, some people coming out of the smoke and up the hill,” Hynes said.
Ground crews put out the fire quickly, said airport spokesman Jeff Green. The 112 people on board made it out on through slides on the Boeing 737.
No deaths were reported, but 38 people were taken to hospitals, said Kim Day, Denver International Airport manager of aviation. University of Colorado Hospital had two patients who were initially listed in fair condition but were in critical condition with fractures late Saturday, a spokeswoman said.
Debris remained on the runway, with the plane about 200 yards away and its landing gear shorn off, Hynes said. The plane’s left engine was also shorn off, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.
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The cause of the accident was not immediately known. The weather in Denver was cold but not snowy when Continental Flight 1404 took off from Denver International Airport for Houston around 6:20 p.m.
The plane veered off course about 2,000 feet from the end of the runway and did not appear to be airborne, Day said.
The plane was carrying 107 passengers and five crew members, said Continental spokeswoman Mary Clark.
At least four Denver-area hospitals received patients, and most did not have life-threatening injuries, hospital officials said.
The accident closed the airport’s west airfield and caused delays of 40 minutes, Day said. She said to also expect delays Sunday.
The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration inspectors were on scene.