"I saw the wing tip over and heard a loud noise, and then I thought the plane was going to explode . . . I saw a ball of fire and I kept praying. I didn't want to burn . . . I really don't remember what happened next . . . I know somebody unbuckled me . . . I don't know how I got out of the plane."
Five days after Continental Airlines Flight 1713 crashed at Denver's Stapleton International Airport, one of its survivors, Vicky Prasad, came home to Gaithersburg yesterday -- by train and by car.
She had harrowing but hazy recollections of the Sunday flight, which she had not planned to take.
"I was scheduled to be on United, and at Dulles they said United had canceled and I would have to go Continental . . . . This is a true miracle," she said.
Prasad, 43, rode the rails for 37 hours to return home, covering nearly 2,000 miles from Denver to Chicago to Washington. She left behind an experience that today she has little memory of surviving.
Prasad, a customer service representative for CNA Insurance Co. in Rockville, was traveling on company business the day Continental 1713 shuddered off a snowy runway in Denver, clipped a wing and then somersaulted. Of the 82 persons aboard, 28 died and 54 were injured.
Prasad suffered burns to her right cornea, multiple bruises and a concussion. Several survivors left Denver within days of the crash, on planes and by train.
Prasad said that her husband, a pharmaceutical researcher who flew to Denver after the crash, decided the train ride would allow her more rest.
"She's doing much better," V.K. Prasad said of his wife as they left Union Station shortly after 1 p.m. "She can walk but she is very tired."
Continental Airlines provided Washington-to-Gaithersburg limousine service for the couple, who have lived in Montgomery County for 11 years.
The airline also had offered free air service to survivors who wished to fly.
Prasad, a mother of two, said she remembered sitting in seat 21E between two women, but said she had no idea what happened to the women.