Saturday, December 20, 2008

Continental Airlines Boeing 737 accident at Denver

Continental Airlines logoEarlier this evening a Continental Airlines Boeing 737-500 aircraft, operating as Flight COA 1404, departed runway 34 R at Denver International Airport. According to a brief press statement released by Continental Airlines, the aircraft was departing Denver for Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport with five crew members and 107 passengers on board. At this time there are no reports of fatalities. Thirty-eight people, including both pilots, were taken to area hospitals for treatment of injuries described as non-life threatening.

Everyone on board evacuated the aircraft via emergency slides. A passenger interviewed on a local TV station in Denver said that the flight attendants blocked passengers from using emergency exits on the right side of the aircraft, where the wing was on fire. He said the flight attendants directed passenger evacuation using their flashlights and bullhorns.

By chance, I happen to be in Denver, and I am monitoring live coverage of the accident on local TV. In a press conference a short time ago, an airport official named Kim Day confirmed that the accident occurred at 6:18 PM local time. She said that the aircraft "veered off runway 34 right, near the WC taxiway into a small ravine."

At the same press conference, Patrick Hynes of the Denver Fire Department said that when firefighters reached the scene, "The entire right side of the airplane was on fire." He said that the fire spread to the interior of the aircraft cabin, and was so intense that the luggage compartments above the seats melted.

Mr. Hynes said that the fire had since been extinguished, but fuel was still leaking from the aircraft's damaged wings, and fire crews were "applying fire suppressant foam."

The aircraft was said to have traveled about 2,000 feet down the runway, but it is unclear whether it had rotated. Asked if the plane had left the ground, officials speaking at the press conference said they did not know.

An official said that there was "a significant amount of debris on the runway." He also said, "The wheels sheared off the airplane. I know that."

The entire west side of Denver International Airport is shut down, but the rest of the airport is operating.

Personnel from the National Transportation Safety Board are said to be on the scene.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about Continental Flt 1404 on Aircrew Buzz.