Video shows calm scene after Denver plane accident
Associated Press Writer
DENVER – Firefighters responding to a blazing plane at Denver International Airport found a calm scene, with passengers standing in the darkness in snow as flames shooting out of the jetliner lit up the nighttime sky.
The airport this week released the video showing firefighters’ response to the accident involving Continental Airlines Flight 1404 on Dec. 20, 2008, following an open records request by The Associated Press.
The plane rolled off the runway during takeoff and down a ravine, where it caught fire. All 110 passengers and five crew members managed to escape. Six people were seriously injured and dozens others were treated for minor injuries.
The twin-engine Boeing 737-500 jet had shed its left engine and both main landing gears, and the impact ruptured the fuel tanks. The entire right side of the jet was burned, and melted plastic from overhead compartments dripped onto the seats.
The grainy video shot from cameras mounted on fire trucks responding to the scene was released about two months after the National Transportation Safety Board wrapped up its investigation.
The NTSB found that the plane was hit by a 52 mph gust of wind, causing it to “weathervane” – turn until its nose was pointed into the wind.
The video shot from Airport Rescue Fire 1 and 4 fire trucks briefly shows the plane surrounded by flames, and fire trucks slowly moving through the area to avoid hitting any passengers. A truck’s spotlight briefly lights up passengers standing away from the plane with what appears to be luggage.
“It was calm considering the incident,” assistant Denver Fire Chief Bill Davis said Friday.
Davis, the commander at the scene, said he didn’t have time to notice whether some passengers managed to take their luggage off the plane.
“I recall most of them not having any luggage,” he said. “When I arrived … they were in the darkness, away from the aircraft.”
Crews managed to extinguish the towering flames outside the plane within 45 seconds by applying a fire suppression agent, Davis said. Firefighters then entered the plane with hoses to check for trapped passengers and extinguish the flames burning inside.
“It went very rapidly,” Davis said.
Dan Sprinkle, operations chief at the airport, said runways do not have surveillance cameras trained on them and there is no other video that shows the accident.
The plane came to rest near a fire station, where passengers were directed to go.