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Dozens of Patients at 7 Schools Treated After Delta Flight Drops Jet Fuel While Returning to LAX

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Dozens of people at seven schools in the Los Angeles area were treated for minor injuries after a plane with mechanical issues dumped a load of jet fuel while returning to LAX for an emergency landing on Tuesday, officials said.

Parents wait outside Park Avenue Elementary School in Cudahy after an airplane returning to Los Angeles International Airport dropped what was believed to be engine fuel onto a school playground on Jan. 14, 2019. (Credit: Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Parents wait outside Park Avenue Elementary School in Cudahy after an airplane returning to Los Angeles International Airport dropped what was believed to be engine fuel onto a school playground on Jan. 14, 2019. (Credit: Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

The incident was initially reported shortly before noon at Park Avenue Elementary School in the 8000 block of Park Avenue, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Thirty-one patients at the school complained of minor injuries after Delta Air Lines Flight 89 dropped fuel over the playground, officials said. The patients were triaged on the campus, which is about 14 miles east of Los Angeles International Airport.

Seventy county firefighters and paramedics responded to what was described as a multicasualty incident.

In addition to Park Avenue, county fire crews also treated six patients apiece at San Gabriel Avenue and Tweedy elementary schools, both in South Gate, and one patient at Graham Elementary School in Florence-Graham.

The Los Angeles Fire Department also responded to two schools, Jordan High School in Florence-Firestone and 93rd Street Elementary School in Green Meadows, officials with the Los Angeles Fire Department later confirmed. Sixteen people were treated for minor injuries at the two L.A. campuses.

And in Downey, the city Fire Department evaluated seven patients who had minor injuries at Gallatin preschool.

None of the patients were transported to hospitals.

Students complained of having itchy skin and eyes, and sore throats. They told KTLA the incident led to confusion and fear around the campus.

This graphic shows the flight path of Delta 89. (Credit: Matt Stiles / Los Angeles Times)

This graphic shows the flight path of Delta 89. (Credit: Matt Stiles / Los Angeles Times)

A number of people also complained of the fuel's noxious odor in the aftermath. Many students walking away from the school in Cudahy could be seen covering their noses with hands, clothing and even surgical masks.

Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health are advising residents who were in the impacted areas to avoid contact with any remaining chemical residue.

Students who were exposed to the jet fuel have been sent home with instruction on how to thoroughly clean themselves and their clothes, according to a news release from the department.

Residents around Park Avenue Elementary reported being able to rub gasoline right off their cars with their fingers.

“That’s obviously a concern for us as well — the life and safety of everyone involved and around the area — so we have constant monitoring going on,” county fire spokesman Sky Cornell told KTLA. “We have meters that are able to detect if there is any unsafe levels that we shouldn’t be around. At this time, we don’t have any reports of that.”

No evacuations were ordered, but the Los Angeles Unified School District's Office of Environment Health and Safety was dispatched, according to LAUSD.

A representative with Delta confirmed the flight was headed to Shanghai when it started to experience engine issues, requiring the aircraft to turn around,

"Shortly after takeoff, Flight 89 from LAX to Shanghai experienced an engine issue requiring the aircraft to return quickly 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. We are in touch with Los Angeles World Airports and the LA County Fire Department and share concerns regarding reported minor injuries to adults and children at a school in the area," according to a statement sent out by Delta.

"The aircraft landed safely after a release of fuel, which was required as part of normal procedure to reach a safe landing weight," the statement read. "We are in touch with Los Angeles World Airports and the LA County Fire Department and share concerns regarding reported minor injuries to adults and children at a school in the area.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating, the agency said in a statement.

Procedures for fuel dumps near U.S. airports 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," the FAA stated.

LAFD reported that the plane "passed over the school at a relatively low altitude."

Those who were affected by the fuel dump were advised by the county Fire Department to do full head-to-toe shower with soap and water, and to wash any exposed or contaminated clothing separately with regular detergent.

Authorities provided the media line phone number for Delta Air Lines for those seeking further information: 404-715-2554.

KTLA's Nidia Becerra contributed to this report. 

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