Firefighters said it was like something out of a movie — passengers emerging from a smoke-filled ravine where the remains of a Boeing 737 lay in flames, its landing gear and left engine shorn off after leaving the runway at Denver International Airport.
Thirty-eight people suffered injuries including broken bones, and two were in critical condition with fractures after the Saturday evening accident, officials said.
Emily Pellegrini, a 21-year-old student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, was on her way to Houston to see her parents. She left her mobile phone and all her personal items behind in the rush to get off the plane.
“There was a fire after the crash, and I just went with the flow off the plane,” she told The Denver Post.
The cause of the accident was not immediately known. The weather in Denver was cold but not snowy when Continental Flight 1404 took off from Denver International Airport for Houston around 6:20pm.
The plane veered off course about 2,000 feet from the end of the runway and did not appear to be airborne, airport manager of aviation Kim Day said.
The airport said travellers should expect delays on Sunday.
National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration inspectors were at the scene.