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Report Says Pilots in Denver Plane Crash Tried to Abort Takeoff

Dec 24, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

The pilots of a plane that ran off a Denver runway on Saturday were aborting their takeoff right before the accident.  According to The Wall Street Journal, the pilots aborted the takeoff as the Continental Airlines flight was traveling down the runway at a high rate of speed, but the plane became uncontrollable and careened off the runway into a ravine.

The Denver plane crash occurred at around 6:18 p.m. on Saturday evening, when Continental flight 1404 to Houston was attempting to take off from Denver International Airport. According to USA Today, a spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the aircraft had traveled about one third of the length of the runway when it veered to the left and skidded into a ravine.  The aircraft broke apart upon impact and burst into flames. The plane’s left engine was ripped away along with all the landing gear, the Associated Press said. According to airport officials, the runway was free of snow and dry at the time of the crash.

Thirty-eight people, including the captain, were hurt in the accident. At least two were critically injured, and as of last yesterday, the captain and four other people remained hospitalized.  According to, most of the injuries were bone fractures and bruises.

According to the NTSB lead investigator,  the plane's data recorder revealed that the thrust-reversers - which are deployed to stop an aircraft on a runway - on both of the plane's engines were activated.   One of the pilots also can be heard on the recorder calling for an aborted takeoff, the investigator said.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the NTSB has interviewed the plane's co-pilot.  He told the agency that the jet began drifting off the center of the strip as it reached about 103 m.p.h.  The NTSB has estimated that the plane reached a speed close to 135 m.p.h. before it left the runway, the Journal said.  Because of his medical condition, investigators have not yet interviewed the captain.

NTSB officials are still trying to determine what caused the unusual sounds, and whether any engine or brake malfunctions may have contributed to the accident, The Wall Street Journal said.  So far, they have found no problems with the aircraft's  engines, tires or brakes, but aren't ruling anything out.

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