A Delta plane returning to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) after declaring an engine emergency dumped fuel on an elementary school playground in Southern California, firefighter officials said Tuesday. Officials said 70 firefighters responded to the city of Cudahy near the airport, according to CBS Los Angeles.
The children at Park Avenue Elementary School, which is located within the landing path to LAX some 13 miles east, reported skin irritation and smelled what they said was jet fuel. Paramedics and HazMat teams also reported at three other schools, including 93rd Elementary and Jordan High School.
Los Angeles fire officials tweeted a total of 17 children and nine adults had minor injuries. None were hospitalized and were treated on scene.
Flight tracking website FlightAware showed Delta Air Lines Flight 89 to Shanghai, China, left LAX and circled back over Southern California before returning to the airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the flight declared an emergency after departing from LAX, returned to the airport and landed without incident. “The FAA is aware of and looking into reports that children at a school east of LAX are being treated for fuel exposure,” the administration said.
Delta said: “Shortly after takeoff, Flight 89 from LAX to Shanghai experienced an engine issue requiring the aircraft to return to LAX.”
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.” Paramedics were immediately called, officials said, and anyone reporting skin irritation or breathing problems were treated.
“I was so scared,” Marian Torres, an 11-year-old student, told CBS News. “We went inside and then my eyes started itching.”
Some on social media captured what appeared to be the plane dumping fuel as it approached LAX in an attempt to lower the plane’s weight before it made a successful landing.
What happened to Delta Air Lines Flight 89?
After take off, the pilots of the Boeing 777 received a notification of a possible compressor stall affecting its right engine. The pilots radioed air traffic control, declared an emergency and turned around. A compressor stall — or compressor stall warning — is a sign of an engine issue that typically prompts an engine shutdown.
Flight 89 was heading to Shanghai so it was loaded down with fuel and was well over the maximum safe landing weight. The pilots started dumping fuel at approx 8,000 feet over water, but then continued dumping fuel over land as it was approaching LAX.
The danger of landing heavy is the landing gear could fail, the brakes could catch fire or you could not be able to stop in time. The plane landed without incident at LAX.
Kris Van Cleave and Danya Bacchus contributed to this report.