Cause of Continental Crash Still Unknown

Locations in this article:  Denver, CO Houston, TX

Continental logoInvestigators are still not sure what caused a crash Saturday in which a Continental Airlines jet skidded off the runway at Denver airport, split open and caught fire.

Miraculously, none of the 115 passengers and crew were killed in the fiery incident, though 38 were injured, five of them seriously.

The crash happened Saturday evening as the Houston-bound Boeing 737 was attempting to take off.

However, before if could lift off, it veered left into a ditch for unknown reasons, causing both the landing gear and left engine to shear off, and the fuselage to crack open.

The jet quickly caught fire, but passengers were able to safely evacuate the plane via its emergency exit chutes.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators are currently on scene taking photos and measurements, trying to determine what caused the crash. They spent Sunday doing a preliminary review of the plane’s voice and data recorders, and later Monday plan to interview the captain and co-pilot.

The investigation will focus on whether one of the engines malfunctioned and whether the brakes were working properly. The same plane experienced engine failure in a 1995 incident, but the faulty engine was replaced after that.

FAA reports from 2005 show that inspectors found some corrosion on the jet’s frame as well as a cracked rivet, but both problems were fixed.

The plane will remain in the 40-foot-deep ravine where it came to rest for several more days as the investigation continues. Airport officials said the adjacent runway will stay closed during that time.

According to the non-profit Flight Safety Foundation, crashes where planes skid off runways are the most common type of accident worldwide, though they are generally more likely to happen during landing than takeoff.

Related Links: USA Today, Associated Press

By Karen Elowitt for

Find more travel news here.

Get more air travel news in our Airlines & Airports section.