According to the NTSB report, the plane appeared to be operating normally until it moved from the runway centerline:
"The Captain noted that the airplane suddenly diverged to the left, and attempts to correct the deviation with the rudder were unsuccessful. He stated that he briefly attempted to return the aircraft to the centerline by using the tiller to manipulate the steering of the nose gear but was unable to keep the aircraft on the runway."
The NTSB's report notes that the plane, operated by Continental Airlines, "departed the left side of runway 34R during takeoff from Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado." The runway was deemed to have been free of debris, bare and dry at the time of the crash, in which the plane left the runway, crossed a taxiway and service road, and finally stopped around 2,300 feet from where it had left the runway. The plane was significantly damaged in the crash and subsequent fire.
Initially following the crash, there were reports of bumping and rattling noises from the plane, however the NTSB has determined that those sounds occurred as the plane left the runway and moved across uneven terrain. The NTSB notes that the plane's takeoff was aborted when the pilots could not keep it centered on the runway. During the ordeal, the plane reached a maximum speed of 119 knots.
So far, the NTSB has found no evidence of abnormalities or malfunctions in the plane's rudder system, main landing gear and brakes and hydraulics. Furthermore, 2 pilots who had flown the plane to Denver reported that they found nothing unusual about the plane and all systems had operated normally.
Some safety experts have suggested that strong crosswinds played a role in the crash. According to an Associated Press report, the plane could have experienced an event known as "weather vaning," in which the crosswind pushes the plane's tail and the plane's nose turns to the wind (the name comes because the wind moves the plane in the same manner it moves a weather vane). However, despite winds of up to 37 mph, experts say those winds alone were likely not enough to have caused the accident, meaning that other factors may have been involved.
Other experts have said that the flight crew was highly experienced, making it more likely that the crash was caused by a mechanical problem than human error. The NTSB is continuing to investigate the crash, with the airplane being moved to a secure location for further examination.
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A spokesperson from Continental Airlines has said that the money was not meant to be compensation for matters arising from the accident and was also not meant to settle all customer claims. The spokesperson said it is industry protocol to arrange for lodging and alternative travel as well as give money for immediate expenses following such an incident.
It is likely that Continental Airlines will face lawsuits following the plane. If you or someone you love was involved in this, or any other, plane crash, contact a lawyer to discuss your legal options.