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Continental 737 badly damaged, 38 injured in Denver take-off accident

Nearly 40 people on board a Continental Airlines Boeing 737-500 have been injured after the aircraft left the runway at Denver and caught fire yesterday during take-off for Houston.

The aircraft, with 112 passengers and crew on board, had been operating flight CO1404 and departing runway 34R at the time of the accident, 18:18.

Fire crews responding to the accident encountered a heavy fire on the right side of the jet but all the occupants were evacuated.

Images of the aircraft show that it suffered severe structural damage. Its left engine and at least one undercarriage assembly detached. The right engine is badly smashed and the 737's fuselage has ruptured aft of the wing.

City of Denver aviation manager Kim Day states that 38 people were taken to hospital.

She says the aircraft left runway 34R at the interchange with taxiway WC. Runway 34R is situated to the northwest of the airport's terminal and apron comples.

Day adds that the aircraft "travelled down a ravine" and that there was a "fire associated with the accident".

Fire and rescue personnel state that the crash site is located north of fire station 4, which is situated between runway 34R and the parallel runway 34L.

Runway 34R is about 12,000ft (3,660m) long. Taxiway WC and the fire station are located about one-third of the way along its length from the southern end.

Denver Airport map

Meterological data from the airport at the time shows that while visibility was good, with relatively little cloud cover, the wind was gusting to 28-36kt from the west. These would have been experienced as crosswinds on the departure runway.

Emergency personnel state that the aircraft has suffered serious fire damage.

Continental Airlines says there were "a number of injuries" among those on board. "We are deeply concerned by this accident and will do everything we can for the passengers, their families and our co-workers," says Continental chief executive Larry Kellner.

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