December 22, 2008 in Nation/World

Denver crash survival ‘a miracle’

By KRISTEN WYATT Associated Press
 
Preston Gannaway Rocky Mountain News photo

The wreckage of a 737 remains where it landed in Denver. Rocky Mountain News
(Full-size photo)

DENVER – It was a miracle that no one was killed when an airliner veered sharply off a runway during takeoff, burst into flames and nearly broke apart, firefighters said Sunday.

There was no official word on the possible cause of the crash of Continental Flight 1404 at Denver International Airport, which injured 38 people.

Flight data and cockpit voice recorders were recovered and appeared to be in good condition, the National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday.

The weather was clear but cold when the plane attempted to take off for Houston around 6:20 p.m. Saturday. Winds at the airport were 31 mph, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor.

The entire right side of the Boeing 737-500 was burned in the Saturday evening accident, and melted plastic from overhead compartments dripped onto the seats. Investigators said the plane’s left engine was ripped away along with all the landing gear.

Passenger Emily Pellegrini told the Denver Post that as the plane headed down the runway, “It was bumpy, then it was bumpier, then it wasn’t bumpy.”

“It was a miracle … that everybody survived the impact and the fire,” said Bill Davis, an assistant Denver fire chief assigned to the airport. “It was just amazing.”

Davis, one of the firefighters who rushed to the scene, said the plane came to a rest about 200 yards from one of the airport’s four fire stations. Passengers walked out of the ravine in 24-degree cold and crowded inside the station, he said.

The 110 passengers and five crew members left the plane on emergency slides, officials said.

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