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Investigators seek wreck clues
Continental jet slid into ravine during takeoff attempt

DENVER - Investigators climbed inside the cracked, charred wreckage of a Continental Airlines jet Monday, searching for clues about why the plane veered off a runway and slid nearly half a mile into a ravine.

The twin-engine Boeing 737-500 still sat in the snow-covered ravine where it came to rest after its aborted takeoff Saturday at Denver International Airport. Behind it, a 2,500-foot-long scar through the grass and snow marked the plane's path.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators conducted preliminary reviews of the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder on Sunday, agency spokesman Peter Knudson said.

No information has been released, but Knudson said, 'We do have good data' from the recorders. The NTSB said nothing has been ruled out as a potential cause.

Investigators planned to interview the captain and the first officer on Monday. Both had clean safety records with the Federal Aviation Administration, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. He wouldn't release their names.

FAA records show the plane, built in 1994, had to make an emergency landing in Denver in 1995 when one of its two engines failed, but the aircraft touched down safely and no injuries were reported. The engine was replaced.

The latest accident forced the 115 passengers and crew aboard Flight 1404 to flee through emergency exits as the plane burned. The jet had shed its left engine and both main landing gears. The entire right side of the jet was burned, and melted plastic from overhead compartments dripped onto the seats.

Of the 38 people injured, at least five remained in Denver hospitals Monday, one in serious condition, one in fair condition and three in good condition. Knudson said one member of the cockpit crew was injured, but it wasn't immediately clear whether it was the captain or first officer, and Knudson didn't know how seriously.

The weather was clear and cold when the plane attempted to take off for Houston about 6:20 p.m. Saturday. Winds at the airport were 31 mph, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

'No other aircraft opted against taking off due to wind' before Flight 1404 tried to lift off, Gregor said.

The plane veered off course about 2,000 feet from the end of the runway and did not appear to have gotten airborne, city aviation manager Kim Day said.

The NTSB took reporters and photographers to the scene Monday afternoon. The charred right side of the plane was punctured by a jagged hole, and debris was strewn across the grassy slope.

Skid marks in the snow and scrapes in the ground showed that after veering off the runway, the plane crossed a flat grassy strip and a taxiway before speeding down an embankment and into a snowy bowl, where it appears the landing gear collapsed and the belly of the plane hit the ground.