LOS ANGELES– Federal officials are investigating after a Delta Air Lines plane returning to Los Angeles International Airport dumped jet fuel on nearby schools, dousing dozens of people.
Fire crews treated 60 people after the fuel affected five elementary schools and one high school Tuesday, said inspector Sean Ferguson of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Park Avenue Elementary fifth-grader Justin Guiti said the fuel sprayed all over him and got into his eye.
“Drops of water were coming down. I thought it was a rainbow, and I looked up and it was gasoline,” he said.
Miguel Cervantes, a sixth grader, said his skin itched afterward.
“I thought it was smoke. But when it went down, I felt it and it smelled like gas,” he said.
Students decontaminated with soap
Flight 89 had taken off from LAX and was headed to Shanghai, China, when it experienced an engine issue and needed to quickly return to the airport, Delta said.
“The aircraft landed safely after a release of fuel, which was required as part of normal procedure to reach a safe landing weight,” the airline said.
Those hit by the jet fuel were decontaminated with soap and water, and did not need to be hospitalized, said Sgt. Rudy Perez of the Los Angeles School Police Department.
The children changed from their clothes and wore gowns.
All affected schools will be open and operating on their normal schedules Wednesday.
“With the monitoring devices that we have, there are no explosive limits that are being detected at all, as well as solid or liquid products remaining,” Battalion Chief Jason Robertson said.
All of the jet fuel has evaporated, according to the fire department.
Fuel should be dumped in unpopulated areas, FAA says
The Federal Aviation Administration said it’s investigating.
“There are special fuel-dumping procedures for aircraft operating into and out of any major US airport,” the agency said Tuesday. “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.”
There are maximum takeoff and landing weights for aircraft, so in order for a plane with full fuel tanks to land, it must dump the fuel to avoid potentially crashing upon landing, said David Soucie, an aviation safety analyst.