An airplane making an emergency return to Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday morning dropped jet fuel onto school playgrounds, dousing several students at Park Avenue Elementary School in Cudahy.
According to the LA Times, Delta Flight 89 — a Boeing 777 — which was en route to Shanghai, had taken off from LAX with more than 140 passengers on board when it turned around and went back to the L.A. airport.
“Shortly after takeoff, Flight 89 from LAX to Shanghai experienced an engine issue requiring the aircraft to return quickly to LAX,” Delta said in a statement, the airline released Tuesday night. “The aircraft landed safely after a release of fuel, which was required as part of normal procedure to reach a safe landing weight. Delta is in touch with Los Angeles World Airports and the L.A. County Fire Department as well as community leaders, and shares concerns regarding reports of minor injuries to adults and children at schools in the area.”
The 20-year-old plane flies from Los Angeles to Shanghai, on a daily basis. But, in recent weeks, the plane also made trips out of L.A. to Paris and Tokyo.
The flight, which was scheduled to last 13 hours, only lasted about 25 mins before the emergency landing.
Tim Lefebvre, a passenger on board the flight, reported hearing a large popping sound. “It was kind of right next to me,” Lefebvre said. “I knew that wasn’t good. The pilot came on a couple minutes later and said we were going back to LAX, and that was that.”
A total of 60 patients were treated. The Los Angeles County Fire Department reported “more than 70 firefighters and paramedics headed to Park School Elementary, where 20 children and 11 adults were treated for minor injuries,” according to the L.A. Times. Still, no one was taken to the hospital.
The publication reported that “six people at Tweedy Elementary School and six at San Gabriel Elementary in South Gate were affected, as was one adult at Graham Elementary School. L.A. City Fire treated 16 patients at Jordan High School in Los Angeles and 93rd Street Elementary in Green Meadows” as well.
Residents within the affected communities have already begun to question how and why procedures leave their area so vulnerable.
“Sadly, our entire community has been adversely impacted by this incident, including dozens of children. I am calling for a full federal investigation into the matter, and expect full accountability from responsible parties,” Cudahy City Council member Jack Guerrero said in a statement.
The Federal Aviation Administration is already investigating the matter.
“There are special fuel-dumping procedures for aircraft operating into and out of any major U.S. airport. 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,” officials said in a statement.