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29 injured as plane skids off runway

A Continental Airlines plane aborted a takeoff from LaGuardia Airport during a snowstorm and skidded into a dike.

Twenty nine of the 110 passengers aboard Denver-bound Flight 795 suffered injuries ranging from minor bruises to broken bones, said Robert Leonard, an Emergency Medical Services spokesman.

Passengers said they felt a large bump, then the MD-80 plane went dark as people screamed and luggage fell out of the overhead bins.

"When he hit the brakes, the plane tilted over and we all grabbed each other," said passenger Hope Manville of New York City. "I was terrified. It was awful."

The airline issued a statement saying the captain aborted because "cockpit instruments did not indicate sufficient speed for takeoff."

"Due to slippery runway conditions, the aircraft could not be brought to a stop on the runway," the statement said.

Passenger Jim Bowman of Phoenix said he saw the pilot come back into the cabin before takeoff and check the wings for ice. But Bowman and other passengers said when they exited through the emergency chute onto the wings, the wings felt icy.

The airline said the plane had been properly de-iced after it left its gate and was "thoroughly reinspected" by the first officer just before takeoff.

The runway ends at Flushing Bay, but the plane stopped up against the dike with its nose hanging 25 feet over the water. The dike is slightly taller than the edge of the runway and keeps it dry during high tides.

The pilot "either saved all of our lives or he could have taken off and he chickened out," Bowman said.

LaGuardia was closed while authorities investigated the accident.

A USAir jet skidded off the end of a runway at LaGuardia during takeoff on Sept. 20, 1990, killing two people.

Another USAir plane crashed while taking off from LaGuardia during a snowstorm on March 22, 1992, killing 27 people. Ice on the plane's wings was blamed for the crash.

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