The Federal Aviation Administration Wednesday investigated why a Delta Airlines airliner that had taken off from Los Angeles International Airport for Shanghai, then reported a problem, dumped jet fuel on staff and students at an elementary school in Cudahy.
Delta Airlines Flight 89 left LAX around 11:15 a.m. Tuesday with 181 people on board, then “experienced an engine issue requiring the aircraft to return to LAX. The aircraft landed safely after a release of fuel, which was required as part of normal procedure to reach a safe landing weight,” according to a statement from Delta.
About 11:50 a.m., the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to a call of a Boeing 777 reporting a compressor stall, which can cause the loss of airflow through the engine and prompt engine failure, the Los Angeles Times reported.
No injuries were reported aboard the 20-year-old aircraft, which landed back at LAX around noon.
Dumping fuel is rare and only used in case of emergency or if a pilot has to reach a safe landing weight, as was the case in this incident, Ross Aimer, chief executive officer of Aero Consulting Experts, told The Times. When a fuel dump does occur, it typically happens above 10,000 feet and over water, allowing the fuel to dissipate and turn to mist.
The fuel dump prompted hazardous-materials teams to go to multiple schools, but only minor injuries were reported and nobody was hospitalized.
Los Angeles County Fire Department crews responded shortly after noon to Park Avenue Elementary School in the 8000 block of Park Avenue in Cudahy, where students and staff complained of skin irritation or minor respiratory problems.
Fire officials said 20 children and 11 adults at the campus were treated at the campus, but none required hospitalization.
The Los Angeles Unified School District issued a statement saying, “Students and staff were on the playground at the time and may have been sprayed by fuel or inhaled fumes. (School officials) immediately called paramedics, who are on the scene and are treating anyone who is complaining of skin irritation or breathing problems.”
According to the district, school officials were “visiting every classroom to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all students and staff.”
Representatives of the district’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety and Los Angeles School Police also responded to the school.
According to the county fire department, it also tended to six people affected by the fuel at Tweedy Elementary in South Gate, one adult patient at Graham Elementary in the Florence area and six patients at San Gabriel Elementary. None had to be transported.
The Los Angeles Fire Department responded to complaints of irritation from the fuel at Jordan High School near Watts and 93rd Street Elementary School in South Los Angeles. According to the LAFD, a total of 16 patients were assessed, but none required a trip to the hospital.
The Downey Fire Department responded to Gallatin Pre-School and evaluated seven patients with minor injuries. None were taken to a hospital, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Los Angeles School Police said students were dismissed for the day at 93rd Street Elementary, but classes resumed at Jordan High School, where students were dismissed at 3 p.m.
Classes were scheduled as normal Wednesday morning at all schools affected by this incident.
Police in Downey confirmed that the fuel release also affected parts of that city, but no injuries were reported.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a statement saying it is “thoroughly investigating” the circumstances of the fuel dump.
“There are special fuel-dumping procedures for aircraft operating into and out of any major U.S. airport,” according to the FAA. “These procedures call for fuel to be dumped over designated unpopulated areas, typically at higher altitudes so the fuel atomizes and disperses before it reaches the ground.”
In its statement, Delta said airline officials “are in touch with Los Angeles World Airports and the L.A. County Fire Department and share concerns regarding reported minor injuries to adults and children at a school in the area.”
LAX officials issued a statement saying they “are concerned about reports of impacts on the ground from the fuel release, and are in close communication with Delta and first responders as their investigations continue.”
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health advises people affected by this incident to wash their contaminated clothing separately with regular detergent and to wash their entire body with soap and water.
If odors remain on clothing after they are washed, they should be discarded. Symptoms such as skin irritation and upper respiratory irritation should improve on their own, according to the Department of Public Health.