Airliner careens off runway at Denver airport

Airliner careens off runway at Denver airport

Continental flight 1404 bound for Houston; at least 38 injuries reported

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updated 8:39 p.m. PT, Sat., Dec. 20, 2008

DENVER – A Continental Airlines jet taking off from Denver veered off the runway into a ravine and caught fire Saturday night, forcing passengers to evacuate on emergency slides and injuring nearly 40 people, officials said.

No deaths were reported, but 38 people were taken to hospitals, said Kim Day, Denver International Airport manager of aviation. No one was reported in critical condition.

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. MST.
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The plane veered off course about 2,000 feet from the end of the runway and did not appear to be airborne, Day said.

It was not known when the plane caught fire, but ground crews put out the flames quickly, said airport spokesman Jeff Green.

The plane was carrying 107 passengers and five crew members, said Continental spokeswoman Mary Clark. All evacuated the plane safely on the Boeing 737’s emergency slides, officials said.

According to Julie King, a spokeswoman with Continental Airlines, the airliner was trying to take off but “exited” the runway. There were conflicting reports on whether the passenger jet slid or crashed.

Denver Health spokeswoman Kalena Wilkinson said seven people were taken to her hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. Seven people were at the University of Colorado hospital, but no one had life-threatening injuries, a spokeswoman said.

The accident closed the airport’s west airfield and caused delays of 40 minutes, Day said.

NBC News reports that the National Transportation Safety Board will send a team to Denver to investigate the accident.

Continental Airlines is based in Houston.

MSNBC NEWS

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