LOS ANGELES – 4 lecturers filed a lawsuit Friday towards Delta Air Strains at an elementary college soaked by the fuel of an airplane preparing to make an emergency landing at the Los Angeles International Airport.
The four say that jet fuel fell on them after the Boeing 777 threw it into the airport shortly after takeoff.
"They could feel the fuel in their clothes, flesh, eyes and skin," says the suit. "The fuel also penetrated their mouths and noses producing lasting and severe irritation and a lasting and harmful taste and smell."
As a result, they became "sick, dizzy and nauseous." Although firefighters did not transport any of the affected teachers or students from any of the several schools that had been under the plane's flight path, one of the teachers said at a press conference that he asked for medical help for recurring symptoms.
A total of 60 children and adults were served by firefighters in five elementary schools and a secondary school in Cudahy, South Gate and Los Angeles after coming in contact with the fuel, said the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The four teachers named in the lawsuit worked at Park Avenue Elementary School in Cudahy, which had approximately half of the injuries reported.
The plane's fuel was thrown on Tuesday by the Delta 89 flight to Shanghai after the pilots reported problems with the engine shortly after takeoff. They requested an immediate return to the airport, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Although the plane landed safely, the FAA said it was investigating why the pilots threw fuel at a lower altitude than necessary to disperse and told the controllers that they did not need to throw fuel.
The FAA said Friday that it expects its investigation to take several weeks.
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Delta said it sent cleaning teams to the affected schools the night after the incident, but has not yet commented on the demand or the actions of the pilots. Communications between pilots and controllers published online indicate that the plane incurred what is known as a compressor stop, which was enough to cause the request for an emergency landing. Pilots often throw fuel to lighten the plane to land.
The lawsuit alleges negligence by Delta and does not specify the amount of damage sought. Delta spokesman Adrian Gee said the airline had no comments on pending litigation.
The amateur video taken from the plane as it passed through southeast Los Angeles at low altitude shows the flow of fuel from its wings as it lined up to land at the airport.
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At the press conference, teachers said about 30 students were in the playground at the time of the fuel tank. They said they thought it was drizzling, although no rain had been forecast. One said he had not seen the plane, ran off and looked at the sky with his arms outstretched before realizing that the drops were jet fuel.
"They immediately took their students inside and did everything possible to decontaminate the children who were screaming and crying," said lawyer Gloria Allred, who filed the lawsuit. "Although the teachers were also contaminated and in pain from toxic fumes and fuel, they first helped the children and finally put their own safety."