Report: Wind Gusts in Denver Crash Not Strong Enough to Impede Takeoff

Winds were gusting at Denver International Airport when a plane veered off the runway during takeoff and caught fire, injuring 37 people on Dec. 20.

But the initial report by the National Transportation Safety Board says the winds were not so strong the pilot should not have been able to take off.

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The plane has been resting on its belly at the bottom of a ravine since Dec. 20, when it veered off a runway during takeoff. The NTSB said it planned to move the wreckage Friday to a secure location at the airport.

The NTSB reports that winds around the time of the crash were at about 27 mph, with gusts to nearly 37 mph. The Denver Post reported Thursday that the wind speed would trigger limitations set by the airline for 737-500 aircraft taking off under crosswind conditions on a dry runway.

Houston-bound Continental Flight 1404 had 110 passengers and five crew members aboard when it veered off a runway during takeoff. The plane traveled about 2,000 feet over fields, an airport taxiway and a raised service road before coming to rest near a DIA fire station.

The NTSB report of 37 injuries is one fewer than initially reported. All have been released from hospitals.

Citing the NTSB report, the newspaper said that Flight 1404 was taking off at a compass position slightly off due north.

The NTSB's report said winds were from the compass direction of 290 degrees, and gusts up to 37 mph from that direction should not have affected the pilot's ability to maintain directional control of the plane during takeoff.

The newspaper reported that the wreckage of Flight 1404, which has been in a ravine where it came to a stop on Dec. 20, would be moved Friday to a hangar nearby for more investigation.

Federal investigators are still trying to determine what caused the accident. They have inspected the wreckage and interviewed passengers and crew members, including the pilot.

Continental spokeswoman Kelly Cripe has said that the pilot was hospitalized for at least five days after the crash but has been released from the hospital. Airline officials have not described the pilot's injuries.