Continental 737 runs off runway at Denver International Airport

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Continental 737

A Boeing 737 passenger jet owned and operated by Continental Airlines taking off from Denver, Colorado, in the United States ran off the south end of runway 16L/34R and into a ravine at 6:20 PM local time on Saturday. The Houston-bound airplane burst into flames, and the 112 people on board were forced to evacuate the aircraft by the use of slides. Ground crews promptly arrived at the scene, and the fire was swiftly extinguished.

Thirty-eight people sustained injuries, such as broken bones, after the accident. Two of the injured were reported to be in critical condition.

Patrick Hynes, the Denver Fire Department Division Chief, stated that the fire associated with the crash burnt the entire right side of the plane, causing melted plastic from the overhead compartments to drip onto seats below them.

Mike Wilson, a passenger on board the airplane, described the accident and the chaos that followed: "By the time the plane stopped we were burning pretty well and I think I could feel the heat even through the bulkhead and window. I made for the exit door as quickly as I could, fearing the right wing might explode from the fire. Once out, I scrambled down the wing."

The cause of the accident has not been confirmed, but preliminary reports indicate that a braking malfunction may be to blame. The weather in Denver at the time of the crash was cold, but not snowy. Kim Day, the Denver International Airport manager of aviation, reported that the airplane went off course about 2 000 feet off the end of the runway, and did not seem to be airborne.

The accident forced the west airfield of the airport to shut down, and resulted in delays of 40 minutes. The runway re-opened Monday, December 22 by 6:00 P.M.