An employee of a Cudahy school is suing Delta Air Lines Inc., alleging she was doused with fuel allegedly dumped from one of the carrier’s jetliners in January while she was supervising children on a playground.
Daisy Castillo’s Los Angeles Superior Court negligence lawsuit was filed Thursday and seeks unspecified damages.
A Delta representative previously said that the pilots were forced to dump fuel over an urban area to reduce the plane’s weight before the return landing.
The Delta Boeing 777 jet was en route to Shanghai, but soon after takeoff from Los Angeles International Airport for the 13-hour, 6,500-mile flight, the pilots of Flight 89 declared an emergency and shut down one of the jumbo jet’s two engines because of a compressor stall.
Minutes later, the plane dumped roughly 15,000 gallons of aviation fuel at an altitude of about 2,000 feet over a wide area, including South Gate and Cudahy. The jet made a successful emergency landing at LAX.
Castillo was working at Park Avenue Elementary School at the time, the suit states.
“Daisy Castillo was supervising the children on the playground when the jet fuel rained down on her, covering her with the toxic substance,” according to the suit, which says she thought it was drizzling “until her skin and scalp felt a burning sensation and she realized it was not raining.”
The fuel covered Castillo’s body and entered her body through her eyes, mouth, nostrils and skin pores, according to her court papers, which say she felt “sick, dizzy and nauseated” and her skin and scalp burned.
She also experienced pain, vomiting and skin irritation and continues to have digestive and respiratory problems, and also suffers from emotional distress because she was “powerless” to protect the students, her suit says.
Delta knew that jet fuel, about 30,000 gallons of which was being carried by the plane, is a toxic substance and that contact with it is harmful, according to the complaint.
The suit also alleges that Delta employees knew of the engine problem prior to departing the airport, but decided to proceed with the scheduled flight anyway.
The plaintiff believes the pilot noticed a problem with an engine and declared an in-flight emergency, which should have prompted the pilot to land, the suit states.
The lawsuit alleges the pilot did not notify air traffic controllers that he intended to dump fuel before landing and denied in a radio conversation that he intended to do so. With such information, air traffic controllers could have directed the pilot to a safer place to release the fuel, such as over the Pacific Ocean, according to the plaintiff.
Boeing, which built the jet, recommends releasing fuel above 5,000 to 6,000 feet and over unpopulated areas, the suit states. Instead, the fuel was dumped from 2,300 feet on a cool winter day and it did not evaporate before hitting the ground, the suit alleges.